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ON THE TOWN
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The World Cup Finals are like the Daleks in Dr Who - there's simply no escape. Unfortunately the Daleks' plans for universal domination foundered on their inability to climb stairs. The World Cup, on the other hand, beamed onto television screens across the globe, has no such obstacles.

So, once you accept the inevitable, you can dedicate yourself to important matters - like how to spend a month watching football.

For those of us not visiting France, it's still possible to sample the unique cultural melting pot of World Cup football right here in London (see our guide, right). Or, if you are uncommitted but still want want to share the experience with like-minded, well-refreshed fans, the best method is to check out sports bars.

As the name suggests, The Sports Cafe (80 Haymarket, SW1, 0171-839 8300) is dedicated to sports. There will be no dirty looks from sullen drinkers when you ask the barman to turn the sound up, because all the TV screens are constantly tuned into sporting action.

In addition to TV monitors, sporting memorabilia, computer games and a mini-basketball court, you can also buy a range of bar snacks and fully fledged meals. And to say that The Sports Cafe's best feature can be discovered in the toilets may sound a little dubious, but with TV monitors installed there, you never have to miss a single kick.

Football, Football (Suite 8, 52 Haymarket SW1, 0171-930 9140) is situated a mere stone's throw away from, and pretty much offers a similar formula to, the Sports Cafe. Sporting memorabilia and other innovations all have a football theme and there are enough screens to offer everyone a view of the action.

Both bars are huge, very popular and, with no admission charges on the door, queuing will be de rigeur. Football, Football seems to attract a more corporate customer, but the atmosphere in both bars promises to be memorable. But if you want to watch a game at either establishment, rather than discuss football with the crowds on the pavement, you should book a table in their restaurant sections.

Babe Ruth's Restaurant (172-176 The Highway, Wapping E1, 0171-481 8181) also boasts free entry, 400 covers and 11 TV screens, including one 15ft screen. They will be open all day, every day and will screening non-stop football until the end of the tournament. More importantly, they're also offering a free drink to every patron if - I'm sorry, I mean when - England win a game in France.

FRANCE

For Francophiles in London, the Institut Francais (17 Queensberry Place SW7, 0171-838 2144) will be showing France's first-round matches on 12, 18 and 24 June on the big screen in their Cinema. Their Brasserie de l'Institut will be open for half-time refreshments.

NIGERIA

A trip to Wazobia restaurant (257 Royal College Street, NW1, 0171-485 0000) will give you the chance to sample some of the finest Nigerian cuisine around, while the London Nigerian Club House, Barnet (0181-444 5622) is planning to erect giant screens to follow the Super Eagles' progress.

JAMAICA

The reggae boyz will have strong support in London, so it will not be hard to find a pub full of green, yellow and black. Try the King on the Rye (Rye Lane, Peckham) or York Hall (Old Ford Road E2, 0181-980 4171) for plenty of sport and a party atmosphere.

SPAIN

Could well be the dark horses of the tournament. Their team is very strong and they will not be short of support in London. For a real Spanish flavour, head to the famous Bar Madrid (Wimsley Street W1, 0171-436 4649) and soak up the atmosphere. Free entry before 9pm.

SCOTLAND

The Scots face Brazil in their opening match. When they've vanquished them 6-0, head down to Stoorum restaurant (305 Kennington Road SE11, 0171- 793 7447, 12pm-2.30am/7.30pm-10.30pm) for some authentic Highland cuisine.

BRAZIL

Salsa (96 Charing Cross Road WC2 0171-379 3277) looks set to attract every Brazilian who couldn't make it to France. Hordes will be arriving here in yellow and green war paint for the festival of football. With two giant screens and six monitors, eat, drink, dance and enjoy the samba celebrations.

SOUTH AFRICA

If the South African footballers are half as good as SA's rugby and cricket teams then they'll be a side to watch. Try the Springbok Bar (21 Shepherd's Bush Green W12, 0181-735 0882, or Bedford Street, Covent Garden WC2, 0171-379 1734).

ITALY

Italians love football almost as much as the English and after scraping through, behind England, their fans will expect a great improvement on Euro 96. Fans of the Azzurri should beat a path to Bar Italia (22 Frith Street W1, 0171-437 4520) for great food, drink and Latin passione.

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