Street football in Sao Paulo
Uruguay's Estadio Centenario
Rio de Janeiro on match day one was a very different place. Chileans mixed with Colombians, Argentina fans played beach football with a combined France and Scotland team, and Brazilians thronged the Copacabana Fan Fest. "There are different queues to buy and pay for your beer," moaned one English fan, "and only about fifty toilets for everyone to use." I chose to watch Spain play the Netherlands from the beach outside, the Atlantic lapping just metres away as Robben turned Ramos, Pique and Casillas into Boumsong, Bramble and John Karelse. A few days earlier I'd clambered sweatily up Sugarloaf mountain with Paul Finnerty, taken a wrong turn and seen England's oceanside training complex from above. One half against Italy aside, it would be the only impressive thing about Roy Hodgson's team.
Brazil vs Croatia on Copacabana Beach
Enough buses. From Rio I decided to fly back to Porto Alegre. The temperature dropped by ten degrees and the French fans were all congregated in a single city centre bar. A member of their Football Federation arrived in a sponsored car, supporters lining up to pose for photos. "If he was one of ours we'd be queueing to throw things at his head," said a bemused waiter. I watched England lose to a Balotelli header in the company of an Irishman, two customers and a bar owner round the corner then headed back to the hotel. "Not much of an atmosphere, is there?" mused Laurie Hanna. The next morning a broken door foiled my plan to meet up with the Honduras squad pre-game, leaving my mood no more positive than the graffiti - No Fifa, FIFA Go Home and Sem Copa among the politer messages - lining the Goal Walk on the way to the Beira-Rio ground. I ducked back out of the cordon to see Laurie in a bar owned by Andre Vieira, a Copa Libertadores winner with Luis Scolari's Gremio in the mid-1990s before a peripatetic career took him to Switzerland, Romania, Moldova and Costa Rica.
Inside the Beira-Rio
Honduras could have done with him in a starting eleven which was reduced to ten when Wilson Palacios was dismissed in the move that led to France's first goal, Karim Benzema coolly converting a penalty awarded when Palacios barged into Paul Pogba. The Brazilians in the crowd - supporting the underdogs with memories of the 1998 final yet to abate - whistled in derision, the woeful French support countering with a muted 'Allez Les Bleus' before attempting to start yet another Mexican Wave. Benzema was instrumental in the second strike, the first ever use of goalline technology at a World Cup sending the BBC's Jonathan Pearce into on-air meltdown. Inside the ground, the boos just got louder. While Honduras hacked and harried, France - with Matthieu Valbuena buzzing and Yohan Cabaye at his imperious best - controlled, Benzema scoring a third goal with eighteen minutes left. "I'm sorry," Andre told Laurie, his Honduran flag a souvenir of the 2010 tournament, when we returned to the bar post-match.
Waiting for kick-off
When the French left the Australians arrived. My final afternoon in Brazil was spent watching Germany demolish Portugal in the company of a few hundred Fanatics dressed in matching hoodies, t-shirts and baseball caps. I flew back the next day, beating England home by a week. No luxury hotels for me but no contest when it came to who had the better time.
Laurie Hanna's Honduras flag (on the left), the only banner covering a FIFA sign.
Roll on mid-January and the African Cup of Nations.