Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Via a Path of Surprises, The World Cup Shone

When I arrived in Japan just before the start of the World Cup, the overriding mood in the country was one of nervousness that an army of soccer hooligans was about to invade.

In a bar in Tokyo, a Japanese TV presenter ran up to the group of people I was with wanting to know if we were "Engrish hoorigans," before excitedly relaying our answers back to the studio via a miniature video camera hooked up to his mobile phone.

Over the next month though -- as with most things about this year's World Cup -- the unexpected happened and the tournament turned out to be the most relaxed and trouble-free soccer event for years.

The friendly atmosphere was largely down to the Korean and Japanese hosts.

The English supporters in Japan were especially well treated by the locals, who went out of their way to be hospitable. Stories came out about English fans being given spare tickets, having taxis paid for, even having their laundry washed by wellwishers.

The good-naturedness of the Japanese rubbed off.

"How could you cause trouble around people like this?" one English fan said to me, voicing the attitude of most supporters I met.

Indeed, the only fans who looked like they might get carried away were the Japanese themselves. After Japan's victory over Russia and its subsequent qualification for the second round, hundreds of young people in dark-blue Japan shirts gathered in the trendy Tokyo district of Shibuya, dancing manically and chanting "Nipp-on, Nipp-on" until early in the morning.

When they weren't supporting Japan, these "foolyfans," as they were nicknamed by some English

supporters, focused their attention on "Engrando" -- and more specifically David Beckham. Within a couple of days of England's opening match, Beckham's white No. 7 shirt and distinctive bleached Mohican had become de rigueur among Shibuya's fashion-conscious youth.

Unlike in Europe, there were almost as many female soccer fans around as male, a phenomenon that could often be put down to the Beckham factor, but not always.

On a train to Tokyo after the England-Denmark match, a young Japanese woman decked out in a Danish shirt and hat surprised a handful of match-goers by reeling off statistics in broken English about little-known names like Claus Jensen and Martin Laursen.

Whatever the Japanese could do though, the Koreans were determined to do better. One FIFA official was quoted as saying that while the Japanese were hosting the World Cup, the Koreans were living it -- and this was probably a fair comment.

Although small pockets of Japan caught World Cup fever, there were parts of the country where the tournament could have been a million miles away. The stadiums were fantastic, space-age creations, but most were also plonked way out of town. And, worst of all for soccer fans, many of the matches were not shown on Japanese television.

In Korea, on the other hand, the TV coverage was wall-to-wall, the stadiums were located right in the center of town and millions of people took to the streets to watch matches on outdoor screens.

The Koreans seemed to view the World Cup more as a carnival than just a sporting event and saw it as a great chance to show off their country to the world. All around Seoul, the flags of the various participating nations were flying, and festivals of music and culture had been arranged in the evenings.

It was a shame there was not more of a crossover of teams and fans between Japan and Korea because at times it seemed like the World Cup was being run as two separate tournaments.

But that is just a minor gripe. Overall, the first World Cup to be held in Asia was as fun and colorful as everyone hoped it would be.