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Saturday, July 10, 2010
I am incredibly excited to be at the final

Posted by John Brewin

Apologies for this one.

1986: Argentina 3-2 West Germany: A Macclesfield front room, with my mother and father. I celebrated wildly when Jorge Burruchaga scored the winner on Diego Maradona's through pass.

1990: West Germany 1-0 Argentina: A different Macclesfield front room. This time I was alone. I celebrated wildly when Andreas Brehme scored the penalty, when two Argies got sent off and especially when I saw Maradona crying his heart out.

1994: Brazil 0-0 Italy (Brazil wins on penalties): A random bar in Calella de la Costa, Costa Brava, Spain. The first night of a holiday with five other friends, celebrating the end of our schooldays. Terrible match, wild celebrations when Roberto Baggio misses. Later on that evening, one of our numbers sang an extremely camp version of "I Will Survive." Suspicions -- later confirmed -- were aroused.

1998: France 3-0 Brazil: A hostel in Surry Hills, Sydney. The match kicked off at 4:30 a.m. local time. The previous day must have ended in a good night because I slept all the way through and was forced to watch the replay the next morning.

2002: Brazil 2-0 Germany: The Soccernet office, Hammersmith, London. The end of a long tournament that involved getting up at ridiculously early hours. I was on photo duty and got in trouble for using an image of a Brazilian fan in a state of partial dress. We later repaired to a local pub for wild celebrations.

2006: Italy 1-1 France (Italy wins on penalties): The same seat in the same Soccernet office. The end of a long tournament that involved working ridiculously long hours. Just me and a much-missed freelancer as all hell broke loose when Zinedine Zidane exploded. I repaired to my tiny flat and slept for days afterward.

2010: Netherlands ?-? Spain: A packed press box at Soccer City, Johannesburg, with me in it. Allow me a moment of smuggery, if you will. I shall be there. I am delighted and know I am extremely privileged to be able to say that. My usual state of cynical being has been set aside, as it has been for much of this tournament. I can never criticize FIFA again ...

It is the question I have been most asked before and during this tournament. Would I be at the final? My answers have been guarded, in the hope that a lowering of expectations means I can set aside disappointment. Because that one always works, doesn't it? I am not yet, and might never be, the type of veteran or journalistic big-hitter for whom such occasions are only a small break from the routine. I was asked the fateful question for the last time on Friday by a friend from, yes, Macclesfield. Tentatively, I made for the FIFA website to check my status, finally arriving at the right page and scrolling down in trepidation. "Approved" read the legend. I celebrated wildly.

The easing of the match schedule as the tournament whittles down its participants has allowed me to see more of South Africa, with safaris undertaken and more socializing done. A lengthy road trip to Durban allowed me to absorb breathtaking scenery, and a city very different to my Johannesburg base. All memories that will hopefully last and some of which are stored on a ropey camera. But I am here for the football. That is the true purpose of my visit and the doubts had crept in on submitting my application after midnight on Wednesday. Perhaps I should support the Dutch for removing Brazil and their 800 journalists, all of whom were almost certainly further up the list than a lowly "Internet Journalist," as I am so categorized. But I care not who wins, it's just great to be here, to coin a familiar phrase.

Please forgive my self-indulgence. I am very excited.