AS ever, I'm jealous of anyone going to watch the World Cup - and by that I mean in the country it's been played in, at the actual stadiums.

It's an experience open to statistically, a very small proportion of us.

Most of us either can't afford it or have not been organised enough to book tickets months or years in advance of the tournament.

The fact that it's in Brazil makes it that bit more unattainable this year. But there are still ways for the traveller to have a memorable World Cup experience.

How magic it would be to be in a country that wins the World Cup, or at least pulls off a result which makes the whole country go doo-lally and start dancing in fountains and waving flags from speeding Vespas.

I was in Amsterdam as the 1998 World Cup was being played in France. By chance, we were there for what seemed a mouth-watering encounter - Netherlands v Belgium.

The game itself was as dull as ditchwater - a dire 0-0 draw. But what was fascinating was watching orange-clad Dutch fans thronging the streets in uniformly good-natured fashion. Their songs were entertaining, especially the one sung to the tune of 'Always look on the Bright Side of Life'.

Even though the European Championships were played in England in 1996, I didn't get to go to any of the games. I did, though, see the final between Germany and the Czech Republic at a Czech club in London with the relatively few Czechs who then lived in the capital.

I had a rare old time, downed a few Budvars and shots of Slivovice with some Prague ex-pats who taught me how to shout 'Come on you Czechs!' in Czech (Pojď vás Čechů since you ask).

Ultimately the experience was one that many would recognise in that everyone left depressed after being beaten by the Germans. Although this time it wasn't penalties but the bizarre 'golden goal', which seemed even more arbitrary and unfair than a shoot-out.

So there's still time to jet off to somewhere about to go crazy for the World Cup. Out of the 32 - where sounds good? France or Spain wouldn't be too expensive and are bound to have a good run.

Croatia would be great for some sun and second-hand celebrations. To be sure of being surrounded by celebrating locals, though, you might want to check prices for flights to Berlin.