Clearly the most significant aspect of England’s qualification for next year’s FIFA World Cup is that it allows the nation once again to dream of victory in the Pop World Cup. This tournament, to find the world’s greatest pop nation, will be running on Freaky Trigger (with cross-platform media support! We’ve even set up a @popworldcup Twitter account though don’t expect it to do anything till December.)

If you saw the 2006 Pop World Cup on livejournal, or the EuroPop 2008 feature here, then you know broadly what to expect. Every participant gets to manage a country by choosing MP3s to represent them. Readers vote on which MP3s are the best and offer comments box commentary. The winning countries progress through the tournament to the final. In 2006 the unfancied Czech Republic beat Portugal in a thriller.

The PWC is utterly unaffiliated with the FIFA World Cup. We do, however, use the football world cup to determine which 32 countries will enter the Pop World Cup. So let’s see who’s qualified so far:

England (always in the betting but the current crop of players is weak), Japan (a real threat with the right manager), South Korea (labour in Japan’s shadow somewhat), The Netherlands (never as good as you might think), Brazil (among the favourites, surely), Ghana (this looks pretty tempting), Australia (will be exposed at this level), Spain (dark horses), Paraguay (may struggle)….

…oh, and North Korea. Good luck with that one.

Some of the other big names in global pop – ultimate sleeping giant the USA, disco specialists Italy – look certain to qualify. But others – Nigeria, France, and European colossus Sweden – face a struggle.

We’ll be officially opening registration for Pop World Cup management at the end of the qualifying campaign, so don’t say “I want to play!” yet. But watch this space…