Photo Gallery: The World Cup really is the greatest show on earth

Jamie Carragher, during England's bore draw against Algeria in Cape Town. Picture: PA

Jamie Carragher, during England's bore draw against Algeria in Cape Town. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

It had always been a dream of mine since childhood to watch England live at a World Cup.

Gavin Caney and three of his friends before England took on Slovenia.

Gavin Caney and three of his friends before England took on Slovenia. - Credit: Archant

So it's a shame that my experience, when it came to how our country performed at the tournament, was a nightmare. And as we close in on the start of the 2014 competition I'm oddly happy to admit that I still feel slightly bitter about it.

If you thought the dross the Three Lions served up against Algeria during South Africa 2010 was bad how about driving 900 miles through the night to watch it firsthand? Of course we'd made the journey by choice, but when you've spent thousands of pounds on a trip and been in a car for 15 hours just to get to a match, then it's hard not to feel angrier than normal at what was a truly woeful display.

That annoyance had evaporated almost instantly within an hour of Wayne Rooney's rant mind because my seven mates and I were partying to DJ Fatboy Slim in Cape Town. It was one of many amazing experiences to take home from when we joined the world in coming together to enjoy a celebration of football.

From the moment we touched down in Johannesburg on the opening day and visited our first 'FIFA Fan Park' to when we left after the final we became part of a nation that went wild.

A diverse group of people had come together from across the globe to share their love of the beautiful game. We drunk, a lot, we danced, and we laughed. But most of all, we experienced.

We swapped beers with the Spanish after they'd progressed to the quarter-finals. We visited slums, shebeens and got to see what South Africa was really like off the beaten track. Most natives were welcoming and looked after us like we were their own. So of course we went wild when the Bafana Bafana scored at their home tournament. Robben Island, Table Mountain and 'The Garden Trail'. Just three places, like the mesmerising Soccer City, that will never be forgotten.

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Of course there were a few scrapes along the way. After all, at the time we were a bunch of primarily single early 20-somethings who liked nothing more than staying out till the early hours. Yet we all eventually returned home in good health, if not out of pocket, with a lifetime of memories and stories to tell.

Come Saturday, it will be with an envious heart that I squeeze into a pub to watch England play Italy. As good as it will be, it will not be a patch on being there in Brazil. Abroad, with your mates and fellow countrymen, singing and drinking to your hearts content in the name of believing this might be the year our country put the ghosts of 1966 to rest.

Yet it's not even the football that I'll remember or miss the most from that special trip four years ago once the greatest show on earth gets underway again. It will be the places we saw, the things we did and the people we met.

I simply wouldn't have changed anything that happened on that amazing adventure for the world – well apart from England doing a tad better of course.