From Bussage to Brazil: Former SNJ reporter and ex-Shortwood United footballer James Davis reports from the 2014 World Cup
England's all too brief World Cup endeavors might not live long in the memory but for me the experience of living and breathing football for a few weeks in Brazil certainly will.
The Three Lions' hopes barely lasted a week - meaning the team had thoughtlessly gone and got themselves knocked out before I had even made it to a match.
But we were in Brazil, after all, and there has been plenty to keep us occupied since the squad's early exit.
The morning after the second England defeat we washed away the gloom at the jaw-dropping spectacle of Iguazu Falls - taller than those at Niagara and twice as wide.
Exhilarated and well and truly soaked, our time at the falls in many ways mirrored the previous night's game which had also seen the English humbled by a force of nature.
But as the disappointment faded we started to enjoy the huge event as fans of the world's biggest sport - and not just as supporters of the nation's most talked about under-achievers.
I've spent the past week talking tactics with the Dutch, debating formations with Colombians, babbling away with Brazilians about the tournament's legacy, or lack of one, and even chewing the cud about the Suarez ban with legendary Sky Sports match summariser, Chris Kamara on Copacabana Beach.
We've sipped caipirinhas at street parties, taken a white-knuckle favela moto-taxi ride in search of an alternative view of Rio, belted out newly learned chants with South American supporters, been shown around the city by a local in Belo Horizonte, and all the while I've barely missed a minute of the action - be it in the stadiums, the Fan Fests, or on TV in the equivalent of village or neighbourhood pubs, known as botecos.
It was an incredible experience to witness a match in the famous Estádio do Maracanã, where the weight of history and the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue both loom large in the background.
Brazilians have been warm and welcoming hosts. And when the Seleção are playing the shops shut and armies of yellow shirts appear.
While England fans tend to hold their breath during games, confidence is always high here and the buzz of excitement builds to feverish levels, speaking volumes about the passion and pride in this football loving nation.
The atmosphere on the streets has been largely good natured apart from one or two small scuffles and long range acts of name calling between rival fans.
The police presence in the three host cities we visited has been impressive and Brazilians are right to ask why they don't get similar protection all the time.
There have been broken promises and many people want to know why they have an unnecessary and unjustifiable new $300m jungle stadium, for example, instead of new and needed public services.
One Brazilian I spoke to said he was supporting Germany this time round as a Brazil win would be used for political gain and to placate many of those who have spoken out. Several others agreed but said the time to voice up was seven years ago but too few did.
With another ambitious and costly event in the Rio Olympics just around the corner those at the top must be braced for further unrest, especially as the tactic of delivering success as a diversion may be harder to achieve in two years time.
The rights and wrongs of Brazil hosting the events will go on being discussed but few can argue that events on the pitch during this World Cup have been anything less than gripping so far.
Yesterday I left Rio wanting more, but feeling extremely lucky to have been able to view it all so close up.
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