10 things we can't wait for as the World Cup finally kicks off...
Get the beers in, lads, it's going to be a hell of a few weeks.
1) Billo’s last tournament
We’re not sure we’re comfortable living in a world where Darragh Moloney or (gulp) Peter Collins is the regular RTÉ football anchor. We really, really, REALLY don’t want Bill O’Herlihy to retire but unfortunately it’s happening after the World Cup Final.
He is, at least, going out on a high so cherish him while you still can as he conducts the Montrose orchestra of Messrs Dunphy, Giles, Brady, Sadlier and Didi Hamann’s unique brand of Germanic-Scouse wit.
We’ll leave it there so.
2) No Michael Owen
He’s the reason we’ve been watching BT Sport’s live Premier League coverage on mute for the entire season, as vanilla’s Michael Owen pours his unique brand of blandness all over our nice Saturday early afternoons.
We can never pinpoint exactly what it is that we can’t stand about the former England striker, except to say that he makes Alan Shearer look like Dennis Rodman. And that takes some doing.
3) The office sweepstake
The company-wide email has gone out. You’ve put your fiver (or a tenner if you want two teams) in the hat, now you just wait for the draw…
Drumroll please… You watch the names come out of a hat, one by one… The girls on the Her.ie desk pick off the favourites (Argentina, Brazil, Germany…) while their JOE.ie brethren get stuck with the USAs and Hondurases and Costa Ricas of this world.
Still, it’s all a bit of craic and at least now we can just concentrate on enjoying the considerable talents of Maynor Figueroa and Bryan Ruiz.
4) The inevitable ‘Rooney/Beckham’ moment
It’s coming. We all know it’s coming. That moment where England “self-destructs.” Where an entire country turns the colour of deepest beetroot after Daniel Sturridge or Raheem Sterling or Adam Lallana flicks a v-sign towards the Uruguayan supporters and bags himself an early bath and a ticket home.
Twitter will crack under the pressure of so much English fury and even more Irish mirth as Roy Hodgson is sent back to Fulham, Sturridge/Sterling/Lallana endure months of booing, The Daily Mail implodes under the weight of its own importance and Kevin Keegan re-enters full-time international management.
It will be glorious.
5) The women
No matter where the World Cup is being held, you’re guaranteed that the camera will pan through the crowd at least eight times during the match to bring you the brightest and the best bosoms that the South American contingent has to offer.
This is likely to increase ten-fold given the fact that the tournament is actually being held in Brazil, where we hope to make the acquaintance of the next Suzanna Werner, the undoubted star of the 1998 World Cup and then girlfriend of Ronaldo.
6) The transfer speculation
Our inner barstool football agent is provoked by thoughts of the next Kleberson, the next Karel Poborsky, the next (shudder) El-Hadji Diouf and the next Andriy Arshavin.
Football clubs should know by now that one good three or four-week spell of football, in the highest profile sporting tournament in the world, does not mean that a player will be selling dummies on a whim to Messrs Shawcross, Vlaar and Distin next season.
They should know it, but money doth burn a hole in those stylishly appointed chinos.
7) Social media
While Twitter was well established by the time the World Cup in South Africa rolled around, it didn’t quite have the all-consuming hold over us then that it does now.
Admit it – the first thing you do when some major piece of breaking news lets loose is check your Twitter feed, so you will certainly not be alone when second screening the 11pm games long after the non-football supporting factions in your household have gone to bed.
Just be prepared for idiots spouting nonsense, the unsettling side effect of Jack Dorsey’s brainchild since 2006.
8) Sky Sports completely ignoring everything
“We have cricket and LOTS of it! We’ll interview female Olympic athletes that YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF! We’ll bring you the GAA Championship matches that RTÉ DIDN'T BUY SO THEY COULD AFFORD TO SHOOT WAYNE'S STAG IN FAIR CITY!
“We’ll be on the streets of York doing vox-pops on the fortunes of TEAM ENGLAND!
“Marvel as Nick Collins gets sweatier and sweatier but still refuses to TAKE OFF THAT TIE!
“Best of all, check out our PHOTOGRAPHIC STILLS from inside the ground in Manaus because we DON’T HAVE THE RIGHTS TO SHOW EVEN ONE SECOND OF COVERAGE.”
And, with that, our Caps Lock button rests.
9) Ronaldo v Messi
Our disappointment at the absence of Zlatan was tempered by the fact that Sweden were beaten by Portugal in the play-offs, and a World Cup without Cristiano Ronaldo would have been inconceivable.
Say what you like about those ridiculous eyebrows and the general preening, Ronaldo is a machine and one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
In Lionel Messi, the Real Madrid striker sees the one player on the planet that is arguably his better. Messi is blessed with having the better team around him, but Ronaldo’s sheer vanity will make this a tournament to remember as he approaches his 30th birthday early next year.
10) Moments of magic
If the excitement of the last few weeks has been a bit dented by injuries to stars such as Reus, Ribery, Montolivo, Strootman and Thiago, just think of the players who fly to Brazil with everything to prove and nothing to lose.
As well as the aforementioned big two, we can’t wait to see of Mario Balotelli can shake off that reputation and just play some bloody football; if Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal can fire Chile to glory; if Diego Costa can fit into the Spanish system; if Luis Suarez will be knackered; if Belgium can make the hipsters smile ironically; if Andrea Pirlo can be any more majestic; if Steven Gerrard’s forehead will de-crease; Panenka-watch; how easily Germany win the thing and how quickly France get at each other's throats.
We truly can't wait.