The 2006 World Cup has arrived at last and the endless waiting for millions of football fans is over.

Thirty-two nations are competing in soccers showpiece event in Germany, which takes place every four years and is enjoying by a global audience of billions.

With the seemingly endless build-up now over, supporters can turn their energies to watching their teams and willing them on to the final in Berlin on 9 July.

But before this, theres another crucial issue to be settled where exactly do you watch the games?

A get-together with friends at a bar to enjoy some mutual patriotism and share the burden of willing on your nation, a giant outside screen for that big-match atmosphere, or maybe sat at home to suffer the nerves by yourself?

All the options are available here in Rome and are being taken up in a city rich in different nationalities, many of them represented by this years tournament.

Fulfilling their stereotyped image, the English flocked to the pubs on Saturday, as England kicked off their campaign against Paraguay.

Fans decked out in England shirts, hats and even red and white training shoes vied for a precious viewing space at the Abbey Theatre pub in Via del Governo Vecchio.

Owner Celestino Cucchiarelli hurried from room to room, checking the multitude of plasma and standard TV screens were working, before rushing back to help serve the swarms of thirsty customers.

In between the commotion, he told me: As you can see, this is a really busy time, especially with the England games.

The American and Italy matches will also bring people in because we have a lot of customers of both nationalities; Im Italian but I really want the England team to do well and stay in the tournament as long as possible, as the English drink a lot!

Across in Piazza Campo dei Fiori an hour or so earlier, manager Jason Hill was setting up tables and chairs at the Drunken Ship pub, where he has extra staff to deal with the demand.

Were showing all the games and its bringing in a lot more people than usual. We had a lot of Germans here for the opening game and of course are expecting plenty of English for their matches.

Other pubs showing the games include Finnegan in Via Leonina, the Scholars Lounge in Via del Plebiscito and Mad Jacks in Via Arenula.

Those preferring to guarantee a seat and enjoy a meal at the game might be tempted to visit the Hard Rock Caf in Via Veneto, which has 37 plasma screens showing the matches.

The American chain is expecting an especially brisk trade when the United States team is in action. This Saturday will bring an extra lively atmosphere, with a mix of tourists and locals as the US faces Italy.

One person who wont be there is Dean Williams, an American wine trader who lives in Castel Gandolfo.

He said: Ill watch our games at home out of curiosity but might hook up with some friends if we advance further in the tournament.

I think thats typical of how many Americans see it: were not mad on soccer but if we see we can begin to compete then we get interested. Were American we like to win!

Those watching at home can see a game each day on Rai Uno, which is also showing a two-hour highlights package Notti Mondiali at 23.15 each evening. LA7 is also featuring a one-hour round-up of events at 23.15 each day, called Un Gol Sopra Berlino. For information go to www.raisport.rai.it/sportsezione, then click on the TV icon. For a comprehensive guide to the tournament, click on the Germania 2006 icon.

Sky TV is covering all 64 matches on satellite channels 251/252, for which you have to pay a subscription. For details see www.skytv.it and click on the Mondiali Fifa 2006 icon.

Of course it is still possible to watch the game at home and also enjoy that big-match atmosphere.

Sabine Pallas from Germany, who works in Rome for the UN, has turned her home into a mini-theatre, having borrowed a projector from friends to screen the games.

She said: Germany is hosting the World Cup so I wanted to host it at my home; Ill be showing all Germanys games and others that my friends want to watch.

We have satellite and can tune into the German channel. Other than being there, this is the best way to enjoy the game.

On Friday, eight fellow Germans had gathered to watch the opening of the event, sing along to the national anthem and enjoy their teams eventual victory.

Among them was Simon Renk, who wore a tortured look throughout the game, often hiding his face in his German football shirt as another goal-scoring chance went begging.

While enjoying the camaraderie of seeing the host nations matches with his fellow Germans, Renk will experience the ultimate way to see the World Cup, when he travels to Munich to watch a knockout match on 24 June.

Those wanting to enjoy both a match and Romes fine weather can see the actions outdoors: there is a giant screen inside the Piscina delle Rose in Viale America, and there are another three in the Giardino degli Eucalipti at Rock City in Via delle Tre Fontane; at both these venues you can see all 64 games free of charge.

The Goethe-Institut (Via Savoia 15) is also ready for the Germany-Poland match on 14 June at 21.00 which will be shown on its garden's giant screen set up for the occasion. There will be original German food and beer on sale and entry is free.

Francoise Blackburn, an Australian teacher, believes this is the best way to follow her teams fortunes.

She said: We have a sizeable Australian community here and its a chance to get together and make some noise. I dont rate our chances very high but well have a good time watching anyway.

Previous tournaments have seen giant screens set up in Romes central areas, such as Piazza del Popolo, for supporters to enjoy Italys matches. An official at the Comune di Roma said there were no plans to do this during Italys group matches, but screens may be set up if the Azzurri advance into the knockout stages. Information will be available on 0602059127.

So, there are several ways to enjoy sports greatest spectacle. Inevitably though, not everyone is caught up in football fever. The last word goes to Paul Whitehead, a teacher living in Trastevere: I cant stand it, football wherever you turn. I might be English but Ive no time for the beautiful game. Im stocking up on all the DVDs and films Ive wanted to see and hiding away for a month.