But yesterday, England's 2012 hopes - slim as they may be - received a huge boost.
It seems Jack Wilshere has made a speedy recovery from a stress fracture to the ankle, and could be ready to return about a month earlier than expected.
Club doctors claim the young tyke is a "medical miracle".
The midfielder could play for Arsenal in early February, giving him ample time to find form and full match fitness ahead of a trip to Polkraine in June.
A prompt return is vital if Wilshere wants to be anywhere near his best - if he has any doubts, he can ask David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry how going into a major tournament seriously undercooked works out.
Those players had gone a couple of months without playing - Wilshere will have gone eight months by the time he returns.
Some cautionary notes.
First of all, given their recent injury record, Arsenal's definition of a "medical miracle" might just be anyone who can climb the steps to the canteen without popping a tendon.
Also, the earlier Wilshere comes back, the more chance of getting injured again between now and the end of the season.
More fundamentally, isn't Early Doors placing too much faith in a player who turned 20 on New Year's Day, one with only five caps to his name, and who has not kept his nose entirely clean in the past?
Frankly, no. You might want someone more experienced or more saintly, but such a player is not available.
If recent tournaments have taught us anything, it's that you really need to be able to keep the ball.
Sounds obvious, but England have made a habit of selecting midfields comprising only of players who look to shoot or deliver a killer ball at the first opportunity.
In 2004, Paul Scholes was hounded into international retirement amid a flurry of criticism following a lengthy scoring drought.
Consistently enabling others to put the ball in the net represents no substitute for doing it yourself, it seems.
Ever since, we have been crying out for a player of his touch, vision and composure - so much so that he was the subject of a slightly embarrassing 11th-hour plea to go to the 2010 World Cup.
Wilshere is the player we need. Somebody to touch the ball 100 times per game, to set the tempo and bring team-mates into play.
He may not be enough to win Euro 2012 - not with centre-backs ageing in dog years, Wayne Rooney suspended and inconsistent, and the options up front comprising merely leaden battering rams and limited poachers.
But come on. If you can't be competitive, at least be forward-looking.
With any luck, Wilshere will be the fulcrum of the England team for a decade. Let's just get him in there.
For what it's worth, ED would love to see a three-man midfield with Wilshere dictating play, Phil Jones rampaging around tackling and distributing, and Steven Gerrard making things happen further forward.
It's not entirely futuristic (ED has its doubts about Jack Rodwell and Tom Cleverley), but it's largely positive.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Pepe. What an idiot. Sometimes people wind u up." Wayne Rooney on Pepe's apparent stamp on Lionel Messi's hand during last night's Clasico. There's no way Wazza would ever lose his cool...
TRICK SHOT OF THE DAY: Shunsuke Nakamura hits a free-kick into a moving bus. Yes, it's been done before, but it's always fun - particularly the passengers' reactions.
FOREIGN VIEW: If you haven't seen UEFA's 2011 Team of the Year yet - well, it looks a lot like last night's Clasico.
Iker Casillas; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Thiago Silva, Marcelo; Arjen Robben, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gareth Bale; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo.
COMING UP: Eurobot, our transfer-hunting cyborg, returns with live coverage of the window. After two weeks of near-famine, Eurobot is desperately hoping for a Nigel De Jong-shaped morsel to sustain it through another few days of idle speculation.
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- Sports & Recreation/Soccer