The World Cup trophy arrived in South Africa on Tuesday night and yesterday England's chances of taking it home come July were given a fillip with confirmation of their place among the eight top seeds for tomorrow's draw.
There had been fears that England could find themselves in the second tier of seeds if FIFA chose to base them on November's world rankings, but instead it is France, finalists last time, and Portugal, England's conquerors in 2006, who miss out.
England will be alongside hosts South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Argentina in pot one for the draw and will face one team from each of the other groups.
At worst that could mean France or Portugal, Ivory Coast and the US; at best Slovakia, Algeria, and North Korea would present a seemingly straight-forward path to the knock-out stages.
For an omen look no further than France, Uruguay and Mexico, which would be a repeat of the 1966 group stages.
France's place in pot two sparked claims that FIFA were punishing the country for Henry's actions, but Jerome Valcke, the body's general secretary, stressed that there was no hidden agenda. Fifa based the seedings on October's alone and, unlike in tournaments gone by, did not take into account performances in previous finals.
November's rankings actually moved the French above England thanks to their play-off success. “France qualified after additional matches and were not even first in their group. “Why should playing more matches and gaining more points kick out England who qualified with a good campaign?” said Valcke.
“There was never, never a question of the France-Ireland game in the discussion. I am asking myself if this is not a sanction for the handball of Henry,” said former France coach, Michel Hidalgo.
“It is an injustice. It looks like France is being sanctioned.”
Meanwhile, David Beckham yesterday assumed a new role as England 2018's bid trouble-shooter after holding meetings with two of football's most powerful figures.
Beckham had talks with Blatter and vice-president Jack Warner, alongside Lord Triesman, the bid and FA chairman.
Triesman described Beckham as “hugely impressive” and the England midfielder is fast emerging as a major force in the campaign's attempts to shake off the turmoil of the past month.
Beckham told Blatter of his delight to be in South Africa, having felt honoured to meet the country's former president Nelson Mandela on a previous visit.
Beckham said: “It was a very relaxed, light-hearted conversation and it was good to speak to him.
“Mr Blatter is not just the FIFA president and a powerful man in football, but he's a very, very good person as well.”