June 30: Day Twenty.
And while the quality of the football has varied between tremendous and torture, I can't help thinking this close-season would be well-nigh insufferable without the World Cup to divert our attention away from the Rangers' troubles.
In these days of satellite TV and wall-to-wall football coverage, there are very few unknown quantities. The top players all play in the major leagues, we know who they are and what they can do, so nobody has burst on to the World Cup scene as an overnight sensation.
It has, however, surprised me to see Diego Forlan emerge as Uruguay's talisman. Previously, I'd seen him as an out-and-out poacher, having scored against the Rangers in the Champions League for both ManUre and Villarreal, and he recently did the business big-time for Atletico Madrid in the Europa League. In South Africa he has thought nothing of checking back to help out in midfield, working tirelessly for the team, whilst losing none of his threat in front of goal.
And from Forlan's unselfish work, Luis Suarez has emerged as a major player. Although he was star for Ajax last season, there were doubts about his ability to step up to a higher level but he has been outstanding, a genuine contender for the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer.
Another to catch the eye has been Werder Bremen and Germany's Mesut Ozil. He ran the show in their opening win over Australia, faded a bit when they lost to Serbia but, when questions were asked, he rose to the challenge, hit the winner against Ghana and ran England ragged last weekend. At just 21, he has such a bright future ahead of him and, while Bremen in a smashing place (as many Bears discovered on the road to Manchester), he is unlikely to stick around beyond the next season or so.
The player of the tournament so far has surely been Spain's David Villa. Despite all the expectation which comes from his recently completed megabucks move from Valencia to Barcelona, Villa has looked totally focused on the job in hand, he has netted four of Spain's five goals to date, making light of the lack of any contribution from his sidekick Fernando Torres.
Putting him into the well-oiled machine which is Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side can only be bad news for those who seek to knock Barca of their lofty perch, most noteably Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid. The Special One is sure to spend big to revive his new club but, as events in South Africa have shown, Guardiola may already have nicked the main man.
There is still a lot more to come from Lionel Messi, Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Roque Santa Cruz. Lets hope we see it in abundance as we get to the business end of the competition.
But for every star or potential matchwinner, there has been no lack of let-downs. Rooney, Lampard and Gerrand just didn't do it for England, the French and the Italians were a collective shambles and Christiano Ronaldo was a huge disappointment, although he can point the finger of blame at coach Carlos Queiroz's negative approach.
Unlike so many who failed to shine, Ronaldo can console himself with the knowledge that he will be back for more. For many, however, South Africa was their last chance to do the business on the world stage and their abiding memory of this World Cup will be of what might have been.
They may watch ensuing events on the television screen burdened by a sense of frustration but I am really in the mood for some serious fitba over the weekend ahead, possibly breaking off briefly to nip outside and enjoy the music from a passing flute band or two...or three...
Tomorrow: Quarter-Final Previews.