The pulse starts to race and the eyes keep turning towards the clock.
Weeks of anticipation have come down to this: the opening match between Brazil and Croatia tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
It's only natural that fans expect to see 90 minutes of spectacular football.
But it doesn't happen that way.
History suggests that the first World Cup match is usually a drab affair with few goals.
Of the last eight World Cup openers, only two ended up with more than two goals. Half of them finished 1-0.
Put it down to nerves, as the players know the entire world is watching that one game.
Or it may be just caution on the part of the teams, who are afraid of getting beaten in their first outing.
If recent World Cup curtain-raisers are anything to go by, also expect the unexpected.
Brazil are hot favourites to win the tournament, not just their opening Group A game against Croatia.
However, they can't get over-confident.
France didn't see their 1-0 defeat by Senegal in 2002 coming.
Neither did Argentina expect Cameroon to embarrass them by the same scoreline in 1990.
And you thought the Argentinians would have learned from their experience in 1982, when they were humbled by Belgium, also by a 1-0 scoreline.
The coffeeshop uncles will tell you that Brazil are "bao jia" (Hokkien slang for sure win).
On paper, that seems to be the case.
But Luiz Felipe Scolari will be happy to get away with a narrow victory.
There may be plenty of excellent attacking players from Brazil and Croatia on display in Sao Paulo tomorrow morning, but don't expect the goals to flow freely.
A low-scoring match is on the cards, and Croatia on the 1/2 Goal handicap looks a sound bet as well.
I still see Brazil winning by a goal, but there's no harm in having a flutter on a draw, considering the excellent potential pay-out.
RESULTS OF THE LAST EIGHT WORLD CUP OPENING MATCHES:
2010 - South Africa 1 Mexico 1
2006 - Germany 4 Costa Rica 2 (highest scoring opening match in World Cup history)
2002 - France 0 Senegal 1
1998 - Brazil 2 Scotland 1
1994 - Germany 1 Bolivia 0
1990 - Argentina 0 Cameroon 1
1986 - Bulgaria 1 Italy 1
1982 - Argentina 0 Belgium 1
This article was first published on June 12, 2014.
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