TheFA.com's Insider prepares for the start of the World Cup.
As we approach the opening ceremony and the first game, I thought I would put everything into perspective of just how long a journey it has been to arrive at this point.
It is 2,219 days since South Africa found out it would host the World Cup.
911 days since Fabio Capello was named England Manager.
276 days since England qualified for the tournament by winning the first eight games in Group C.
26 days that the squad have been together since flying to Austria for the training camp.
Having traveled 5,600 miles from London to South Africa, we have now been here for nine days.
When delivered in isolation, those numbers may not mean a great deal, but recounted together they show the vast distances in space and time in which this tournament has existed in people's thoughts. It is a competition that consumes everyone and everything every four years, but this incarnation of the greatest show on earth has something extra special; the first World Cup on African soil.
While Lord Byron may have written that it is important not to dwell on the destination, but the journey, for 32 teams the World Cup Finals represent a very significant destination and now we are here the journey counts for very little.
Revisiting the events of this past week is not difficult given the number of interesting things that have occured. Monday saw a training game against local team Platinum Stars, goals from jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney the highlights of an important test at altitude.
After the game had ended, Fabio Capello welcomed a group of local orphans onto the pitch to meet his players and receive gifts and autographs. There are numerous examples like this one that have seen England players embracing the local communities; from delivering a soccer clinic in Trinidad two years ago to inviting Almaty schoolchildren to visit training last year in Kazakhstan.
On Tuesday, the entire squad, coaching staff and backroom team visited the Pilanesberg Game Reserve - many players agreed and certainly from a personal perspective it was a once in a lifetime experience. Seeing rhinos, elephants and giraffes in their natural habitat is something I may not ever have the chance to do again. Unfortunately The Three Lions didn't see any actual lions, despite the best efforts of the guides to make it happen!
Joe Cole spoke to the media on Wednesday and joked that he felt safer in the game reserve than he would on the streets of Camden!
I think most of all for the players, it was a timely distraction from the hard business that has been done on the training pitch over the past few days out here, and for a fortnight in Austria. Golf on Thursday afternoon was another example of this, although for Fabio his games with Ray Whitworth against Sir Trevor and Ray Clemence are fiercely contested affairs.
Yesterday, England captain Steven Gerrard spoke for the first time about the huge honour of leading his country into a World Cup, and later tonight Fabio Capello will address the press within the bowels of Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Arriving in the stadium the night before the game to train is perhaps the final sign that it is all about to begin. It is the time when players can start to properly visualise what they hope to make happen a day later, to see the pitch and the stadium in which they will kick off their World Cup campaign. It becomes very real from that moment on, and there can remain no isolation from what is happening in South Africa.
The players say they are ready, it is not a matter of staying true to those words. Tomorrow the World Cup begins for England, the end of a very long journey to get here, and perhaps the start of another...
As always any comments or questions are greatly encouraged,