And last night's delicious draw with England was watched on my mate Barry's big screen in Belfast, with friends who screamed as loud for the USA as I did.
The group matches are magic: the tentative tackles while players find their feet, the look on a player's face when he realizes his shot went in, the ebb and flow of every half. Choosing a team you want to see win, then screaming your head off when they do and feeling your heart break a little if they don't.
Once the teams advance, the claws come out. National character oozes out of the players; identity cliches are created and buttressed. Millions of thumping hearts stop for the millisecond it takes for a ball to swoosh into a net.
Much as I adore college basketball, it's a niche. I'm in awe of the number of people who adore football/soccer. If you can find a round-ish shaped something, you can play. I like the egalitarian nature of the game. The dreams it evokes. Many men around the world still harbor hope that they'll be called on to represent their country (even well after their prime) - and they're only kind of kidding. Especially the ones ingrained in five-a-side squads.
So. Group C predictions: Slovenia as winners. USA in second. This is funny stuff.