World Cup: The good, the bad, and the ugly

World Cup: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Stark contrast: A girl playing football on the iconic Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro (left) but the nation is also hit by mass protests (right) ahead of the World Cup.

World Cup 2014 (June 12 - July 13): The big kick-off

Brazil is the spiritual home of the Beautiful Game. The best Brazilian of them all said as much. Pele has won three World Cups himself (two more than England) so he should know. But there are reasons to be cheerful that the World Cup is on the road to Rio and just as many to be sceptical. Here's why...



Big is beautiful

Brazil will host matches in 12 different cities, more than any other Finals on record.

From north to south, Manaus, Fortaleza, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Cuiaba, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Porto Alegre are all serving as hosts.

In the group stages, every nation will play in three different cities, adding to the variety and avoiding accusations of bias levelled at the 1966 World Cup Finals where England somehow managed to play every game at Wembley.

Using the Three Lions as an example, they play their opener against Italy in the humid Amazonian rainforest of Manaus.

Uruguay will be met in the multicultural swinging centre of Sao Paulo. And the decider with Costa Rica will be staged in Belo Horizonte, famous for its pub culture. England fans will not want to leave.

And the Maracana Stadium hosts the final. What more needs to be said?


History must be made

South America is hosting the tournament for the fifth time, but the first time since 1978.

All five were won by South American nations. Spain are reigning European and world champions.

They either break the spell of the South Americans or the South Americans break the Spaniards.

Something must give.

Brazil last hosted the tournament in 1950, but lost to Uruguay in the final; a shock result that prompted national humiliation, an identity crisis and a change of kit colour as the proud nation plunged into mourning.

They vowed to avenge the shame.

And they did in 1958, 1962 and 1970. So the narrative promises to be captivating. History will be made in Brazil in 2014. But it cannot be repeated.

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