SOME label it the worldâs biggest sporting event. Others, just `the Cupâ.
John vanât Schip happily calls it âthe circusâ.
The Dutchman should know, having been part of the carnival as both a player and coach.
For the 2010 tournament, vanât Schip will brave the early morning chill to watch proceedings from his new home in Melbourne, Australia.
Down under after accepting the managerial position at A-League debutant Melbourne Heart, vanât Schip is still in a better position than most to shed light on what it is to be involved in a World Cup.
A name deeply etched in Hollandâs football history, vanât Schip was a skilful winger who patrolled the touchlines for Ajax and his country.
He was a member of the Oranjeâs European Championship-winning squad in 1988, as well as Hollandâs ill-fated Italy 1990 World Cup campaign.
A roommate of close friend Marco van Basten at major tournaments, the duo again combined as vanât Schip returned to the big show as assistant to the legendary striker in Germany in 2006.
Understandably, talking about his time as a player finds him more at ease.
Like today, players were squirreled away from the mediaâs glare back then, emerging on game day to the full brunt of World Cup fever.
Hollandâs squad set up camp in a hotel just outside Palermo in 1990.
It hardly prepared the players for the scenes that would greet them when they made their way on buses into the city centres.
âYouâre very isolated, so instead of (being) in the circus youâre taken out of it to be protected and in the surrounds of a quiet hotel,ââ vanât Schip said.
âOn game days, youâd come into the city and see all the orange supporters.â
âYouâre there doing your job, but you get the messages and you do see some TV or images.
âThatâs the thing that makes it special. Thatâs what makes the adrenaline growâŚ what you need.ââ
Boasting superstars Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and with the sideâs triumph in the 1998 European Championships still fresh in the mind, Holland could only scrape through the group stage as one of the best third-placed finishers.
The Dutch were bundled out by West Germany 2-1 in the Round of 16, in a game made infamous by red cards to Rudi Voeller and Frank Rijkaard.
vanât Schip, in his 41st appearance for Holland, was his countryâs best in the defeat. It was to prove his last, as injuries and the emergence of a new generation of Dutch players meant he was never to play again in an orange shirt.
âMarco had a very good season with Milan but then at the World Cup he had a drop (in form). Gullit with his (injured) kneeâŚ The flow that was in the team in â88 wasnât there in â90,ââ vanât Schip said.
âWe always said that the players who carried the water, they were very good in â88. But they thought they were big stars in â90 and they didnât do the job they did in â88. So there were all different things. We were not the team we were.ââ
vanât Schip believes expectations on the Dutch were âa lot higherâ in Italy after the European Championship win two years before.
Itâs an issue he believes the Socceroos must also deal with in South Africa.
âThey had, of course, a very good world cup in 2006,ââ vanât Schip said of Guus Hiddinkâs men.
âA lot of those players have at that moment a good age. You see that now most of the players (are) over 30 and the backing has not been as good as everybody had wanted
âThere has not been very (much) new blood into the team, I think.
âIt could be an advantage that they already have the experience now, but it can also be that they are missing the freshness that they had four years ago.ââ
vanât Schip believes the Socceroos have been hurt by an inability to find a clear successor to striker Mark Viduka.
Harry Kewell, Mark Schwarzer, Jason Culina and Luke Wilkshire were singled out by as important for Australiaâs fortunes.
He believes none, however, are more crucial than Tim Cahill.
âIf I had to choose one, I think I would love to have a player like him in the team,ââ vanât Schip said.
âHe's always going 100 per cent. He's there battling, he's scoring goals. He's really the face of the team.â
Australiaâs pre-Cup form has been less-than impressive, and Group D opponents Germany and Ghana have been quick to write off the Socceroosâ chances.
vanât Schip is not as hasty.
"The tournament is different,ââ he said.
Itâs a simple statement, and perhaps devoid of great meaning on face value.
But, accompanied with a wry grin, it sums up the Dutchmanâs own ring-side experiences at the circus.
"Like the Italians in '82,ââ he continued.
"Everybody knows that they played three times 0-0 and they were playing awful, and they became the world champions.
"In the tournament, it can change like that.ââ