The summer of 2014 marks one of the most highly anticipated and globally watched sporting events in history – the 19th FIFA World Cup tournament.
The World Cup is a festive time as competing countries have long prepared and awaited this moment and millions of fans from around the world will be watching on TV, computer even by phone, rooting on their fellow countrymen.
Every four years, the World Cup draws international attention and has created story-headlines in the soccer and sporting world since 1930. This year will be no different as 32 countries have qualified for the tournament, but only two countries will play for the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy, better known today as the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Host nation, Brazil, are favorites to win the tournament, as are the reigning World Cup Champions Spain. Germany and Portugal are also heavy favorites leading up to the tournament. I myself, am an avid U.S.A supporter and with the “group of death” challenge ahead for the U.S., this could be one of the most exciting World Cups ever for the boys in red, white and blue.
Brazil last hosted the tournament in 1950 and were heavily favored then, but eventually lost 2-1 to Uruguay on home soil. Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, and recently beat Spain 3-0 in the 2013 Confederations Cup, hosted in Brazil.
The last host nation to win the World Cup was France, who defeated Brazil 3-0 on French soil in 1998. Brazil’s current group of players would like right-the-wrong so to speak, from the 1950 loss and add to their 5 World Cup titles already. In close competition are Italy, who have won 4 times and Germany (formerly West Germany) who have won 3 times. Argentina and Uruguay have both won twice, while the Netherlands has been to the Cup final 3 times but have never won, losing in the last tournament in 2010 to Spain.
The fact that there have only been 19 World Cup tournaments and three countries have won a total of 12 Cups combined, says a lot about the competition. Not many win and it’s always hard to reach the top. While the country of Brazil has changed a lot since it last hosted the Cup in 1950, it is still regarded as the Mecca for soccer players and fans alike. Soccer fans will be in for a treat with the final being played at the Maracana this year. It is truly a special moment, the beautiful game played on a special stage.
As the 32 nations are preparing their final 23-man rosters before heading to Brazil in June, there are many issues teams will have to deal with on the pitch but some of the most concerning issues are for the players safety off the field. Brazil is a nation heavily divided in the political spectrum at the moment. Protests and clashes with local police happen on a regular basis. There are currently groups protesting the World Cup itself. Many families have been forced out of local favelas, using incentives, to clean up the slums in preparation for the World Cup, then the Olympics in 2016.
There are 12 cities where matches will be played. Cities such as Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo are historicly famous, large cities with troubled pasts. Smaller cities such as Porto Alegre and Salvador, which are normally tourist friendly beach cities, can also be dangerous areas anytime of the day. Tourists are constant targets in these beach cities and while many fans from around the world will make their way to Brazil to support their country, these same fans will need to know where they should go to stay safe. Players must also be cognizant of where they are at all times. While most teams will travel with security personnel, many fans don’t have the same luxury.
Brazil itself has issues controlling some of the dangerous criminal activities that are near areas where games will be played. Brazil has said it will deploy up to an additional 100,000 security personnel during the games to help with the expected 600,000 foreigner supporters travelling to Brazil in June for the Cup.
With all the variables on and off the pitch, teams will also have to get acquainted with the climate in Brazil. During the summer peak, temperatures can reach the 100-degree mark in cities like Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador. Areas like Sao Paulo, Braisilia and Belo Horizonte are much cooler climate areas. Some stadiums are at higher elevations and some, closer to sea level. Some European teams have had a difficult time adjusting to the vast changes in climate temperature, humidity and the summer heat will only add an extra element of unknown to the Cup.
So I will ask, who do you think will play in the World Cup final on Sunday July 13th at the world famous Maracana in Rio de Janeiro?
Check back with completefutbol.com as we bring you features on all 32 teams competing for the World Cup title each week leading up to the opening kick-off Thursday, June 12th when Brazil will take on Croatia in the Arena de Sao Paulo.