The World Cup is finally upon us, and so is Nick Harper's diary...
Waiting for a World Cup finals to start must be how it feels for a small child waiting on Christmas Day. Minutes feel like days and hours like weeks as we creep slowly closer to The Big Kick Off. And particularly when there's not really, in all honesty and despite what Bryan Swanson might want you to think, a great deal going on.
So in those final few hours before it finally begins, the expectant football follower is force-fed a diet of insulting filler. Shots of empty stadiums. Shots of various teams running slowly around training pitches. Shots of a team coach doing a three-point turn. Yesterday, even England were a hard news void. But that didn't stop the tabloid paps, of course.
Men in tracksuits shuffle towards empty plane. Snap!
Men in tracksuits take 'selfy' on otherwise empty plane. News!
Men in tracksuits shuffle back off plane. Snap snap snap!
Men in tracksuits exit airport. And hey, look, it's Fraser Forster! Er, snap!
Later, Wayne Rooney sat in an ice bath wearing Bobby Charlton's hair. Snap snap snappity snap and hold the back page!!
In those final few hours before The Big Kick Off, there really really wasn't much going on, if you conveniently ignore the anti-World Cup protests and police brutality going on outside the stadium, which most people were able to do as soon as news broke that Cesc Fabregas was joining Chelsea.
And luckily, any unfortunate outbreaks of civil unrest were tear-gassed into the shadows as The Opening Ceremony finally shuffled into view. Thank Christ the Redeemer for that. What kept you?
Live from Sao Paulo's Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil's opening ceremony was unlike most previous examples, in that it didn't drag on for days. Chief creative director Danny Boylinho kept it short and sweet, not to mention surprisingly low-key.
There were big dancing trees and men with drums, how could there not be men with drums? There were Oompa Loompas dancing around a wooden phallus which probably signified virility. They should have simultaneously flashed up that Pele advert on the giant screens for the same effect. ("Aye woood!") There was a large wooden olive for reasons that weren't made clear, and acres of space, as if central casting had run out of dancers.
And at the centre of it all, there was a giant luminous Brazuca ball, which split open to reveal a woman who wasn't Jennifer Lopez, a woman who was Jennifer Lopez, and a bald bloke in half-mast white trousers. Between them, they murdered the official Brazil 2014 anthem, We Are One (Ola Ola), and that was that. An opening ceremony done and dusted inside 30 minutes. Excellent.
Which meant The World Cup must finally be upon us. Truly excellent. But, wait. WTF. It was still only 7:30pm. There was still 90 minutes until kick-off, and 90 minutes in the company of Adrian Chiles, Lee Dixon and Ian 'Wrighty' Wright is more like life without parole. For the love of all that is right and proper, could somebody, anybody just let it begin!
Finally, of course, it did begin, with Brazil beating Croatia in a pleasingly lively curtain-raiser. So we're finally up and running. Woo and indeed hoo. And look at this, here comes Spain versus Holland!! It's been worth the wait.