Millions of soccer fans around the globe will be glued to their televisions starting June 12, when the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil. With 32 countries in competition, the World Cup is one of the world’s most popular sporting events. The monthlong tournament is held every four years. It is estimated that at least 1 billion people watched the 2010 World Cup final, which was held in South Africa.
The 64 matches of the 2014 World Cup will be played in 12 Brazilian cities. The host country will play Croatia in the kickoff game at Itaquerao stadium in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. After the final match—at Maracaña Stadium in Rio de Janeiro—on July 13, the FIFA World Cup trophy will be presented to the captain of the winning team.
A Rematch for the U.S.
The U.S. men’s national team will play its opening game on June 16 against Ghana, which eliminated the U.S. at the last two World Cups. The 23-member U.S. team is young—only five have previously played in a World Cup. But coach Jürgen Klinsmann says he is doing what he can to help the players go into the game with the necessary training and confidence.
“I’m sure they’re going to be very well prepared and they will be ready for the task,” Klinsmann told the Associated Press. “There’s always a first time in life in whatever you do. It’s for some the first World Cup, though it’s the first of hopefully many World Cups to come for them. I’m not worried about the inexperience.”
Brazil’s Construction Woes
Brazil has been preparing to host the World Cup since 2007. But frequent delays in stadium construction and infrastructure work have taken a toll on the South American country’s readiness. Brazil built or renovated 12 stadiums to host the tournament, but fell behind schedule. Much of the work was still not finished by the end of last year. The price tag is now estimated at around $4 billion for stadium work. That is nearly four times the amount estimated in 2007 and makes it the priciest World Cup ever.
A brand-new stadium in Brasilia will cost the public $900 million—making it the world’s second-most expensive soccer venue ever, behind England’s Wembley Stadium. The rising costs led to protests and demonstrations last year. Critics complain the money should have been spent on addressing Brazil’s transportation, housing, and education issues.
Across Brazil, where soccer is called fútbol, residents have painted walls with graffiti inspired by the sport. Some of the graffiti welcomes the World Cup and some of it complains about the cost. Organizers are assigning 157,000 soldiers and police to keep order during the tournament.
Despite the controversy, many Brazilians are excited their country will host the tournament. More than 50,000 tickets have already been sold for the opening match in Sao Paulo. On June 2, thousands of fans showed up to watch a training session at Serra Dourada Stadium in Goiania, Brazil. The crowd chanted “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil” and cheered loudly as players entered the field.
Christiano de Castro brought his two-year-old son to the practice. “He loves the national team,” he told the Associated Press. “This is huge for me and for him.” Next month, Brazil’s fans fully expect to see captain Thiago Silva accept the World Cup trophy on behalf of the host country.