"Germany and Belgium in the final with extra time!"

The football World Cup starts on Thursday and it's not only the Brazilian economy that is expected to fare well by it. The Belgian economy too should benefit from merchandising linked to the Red Devils - our national football squad. The World Cup could generate 35 million euros in extra turnover in Belgium alone.

For weeks now the shelves of our supermarkets have been piled high with everything from flags to shampoo in the Belgian colours often with effigies of our national heroes: the football players selected for the Red Devils. Gino Van Ossel of the Vlerick Business School told VRT Radio: "In the Netherlands the average family will purchase a soccer-related item every week. Here in Belgium sales are even higher, because we are so enthusiastic about the chances of our national squad."

The further the Belgian team gets in this soccer extravaganza, the more we are all expected to spend on World Cup paraphernalia, but that needn't worry business people. Even if the Red Devils are quickly eliminated World Cup-related business won't be too damaged as much of the merchandise is sold in the initial stages.

Luc Ardies of the small business's organisation UNIZO: "If you analyse the Belgian supermarket model, then you come to the conclusion that World Cup-related sales will generate a further 35 million euros."

However, Filip Van Doorslaer, the marketing director of the Belgian Football Association, is keen to play down some of the wildest expectations for this soccer bonanza: "I saw some silly figures in the press. It is an extra line of income, but it will remain rather limited."

Gino Van Ossel believes it's dangerous to put a precise figure on turnover expectations, but readily admits that worldwide the World Cup will result in extra turnover. It's been proved in the past that beer sales will be higher in a year when a World Cup is organised."

"It's also clear that the World Cup will boost consumer confidence. If we're lucky and the sun keeps shining too, you'll notice we feel better and we will spend more."

It's especially items that are directly linked to soccer like football shirts and other fan paraphernalia that will sell well. Beer too is associated with soccer and if the weather stays fine hopefully we will also be able to BBQ ourselves through the World Cup too.

Gino Van Ossel: "People meet up to watch soccer matches and to eat and drink at the same time."

Products associated with the World Cup may lead to a shift in our purchasing patterns. A shampoo in a bottle that is in the Belgian colours may sell better than one that isn't, but that doesn't mean we will be washing our hair more.

Gino Van Ossel is ready to reassure shopkeepers who fear their sales will be dented if - AGAINST ALL EXPECTATIONS -  the Red Devils do poorly: "You can already see that many stores are well through their stock. Much of the turnover has already been realised. The Red Devils are guaranteed to play at least three matches."

World Cup-related sales could get an extra boost if the national squad manages to land a ticket for the knock-out stage. Fans will then watch other matches too in order to assess the competition. But once the Red Devils are eliminated - as will probably inevitably happen at some stage - the World Cup will become domain of the die-hards and there will be fewer people to eat those crisps and down those pints.

Most of the World Cup-related merchandise will be sold in the initial phase and even if the Red Devils fail to make it to the knock out stage, consumers will still be willing to part with their money in exchange for a can of beer in Belgian colours. However, Belgian butchers will be keen to get more BBQ meat ready if the weather stays fine and the Red Devils are still in with even the slenderest chance of lifting the trophy.

It's also clear what the Belgian economy needs: a World Cup final between Germany and Belgium would provide a shot in the arm that can be equalled by few government measures. Gino Van Ossel insists that a Germany-Belgium final with extra time is the best scenario: "For economic purposes it's best if Germany wins as they are the engine of the European economy. As a football fan, however, I would prefer Belgium to win!"

And who could argue with that?