Humdinger or brain-bendingly appalling?
The. World. Cup. Final.
Four of the most magical words in the English language.
For players, the very apex of their careers, the occasion theyÃ¢ÂÂve been dreaming about since they first toe-poked a spheroid in a back alley, on a balmy beach, or around a disused electricity substation.
For fans, the very thought of it produces a jolt of pure ecstasy up the spine. A match theyÃ¢ÂÂve been looking forward to for four years. A game they wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt miss even if The Saturdays (or, erÃ¢ÂÂ¦ the Chippendales) rang up and asked if they fancied bobbing round for a bubble bath.
The best match ever.
ExceptÃ¢ÂÂ¦ it quite often isnÃ¢ÂÂt. As frequent viewers know, football matches are regularly brain-bendingly appalling experiences. And the World Cup Final, despite being contested by the two top international sides, is no exception. And why should it be?
In a way, the match suffers a little from New YearÃ¢ÂÂs Eve syndrome. Everyone expects it to be terrific fun, ordering in extra port and Scotch eggs and making a special sixties playlist on their iPod.
But then somebody adds ketamine to the punch, and you end up watching Jools HollandÃ¢ÂÂs Hootenanny alone in your bedroom through a veil of terrified tears.
You canÃ¢ÂÂt enforce merriment, and you canÃ¢ÂÂt enforce a belter of a World Cup Final. It just has to happen.
So what odds a humdinger on Sunday? History offers a few lessons. While we shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt expect a blinder to follow a thrilling tournament, the odds are definitely improved.
Brazil in 1970 played the best fancy keep-ball anyone had ever witnessed, and saved the best until the end, when they unleashed aesthetically-delightful merry hell on Italy.
1986, arguably the greatest tournament of them all, bowed out with a suitably enjoyable centrepiece, a 3-2 ding-dong-o-rama between Argentina and Germany.
1982, equally, was a boisterous blast of a summer with an enjoyable conclusion (Italy 3 Germany 1), and 2006 a rollercoaster competition that kept its biggest thrill Ã¢ÂÂ ZidaneÃ¢ÂÂs mental headbutt Ã¢ÂÂ for the last dance.
Meanwhile, 1990Ã¢ÂÂs snoozefest concluded with a crime against humanity of an endgame that made most viewers claw at their own eyes and bay for mercy. 2002Ã¢ÂÂs Japan-and-Korea carnival had a bubbly personality, but concluded with a dull date between Brazil and Germany.
1998, was a true mixed bag of a tournament, and often extremely poor, but is rescued in the collective memory by its newsworthy and thrilling final, as Les Blues overcame a weirdly out of sorts Brazil to send the usually nonchalant host nation apesh*t.
All of which suggests that we shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt expect too much on Sunday night. 2010 has been a groundbreaking tournament with uniquely enthusiastic hosts.
It started tediously with a record amount of low-scoring meetings in the first round of group clashes, then picked up significantly, before dipping again a little in the round of 16.
The quarters and semis were decent. But South Africa went out early, too many big teams played poorly, and - bizarrely - Germany were the only team displaying any flair.
History will judge 2010 as an Ã¢ÂÂaverageÃ¢ÂÂ World Cup, so our bet is on a routine 2-1 or 1-0 final rather than a thriller. But an average World Cup is still better than any other sporting event on the planet by a country mile, and footballÃ¢ÂÂs all about the unexpected. So bring on a classic, Holland and Spain. ItÃ¢ÂÂs been a blast.