European Football Teams Face Long Trips at 2014 World Cup in Brazil
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was groundbreaking. For the first time in the history of the FIFA tournament, a European side was crowned champion outside of their own continent.
At the 2014 World Cup, history of a different kind will be made. When Brazil host the event from June 12 until July 13 next year it will be the first time the competition has been held outside of Europe for two consecutive editions.
The World Cup is coming back to South America after 36 years. Now that Europe's winless run outside their own domain has been put to rest, can a team from “The Old Continent” wrest the grip that South Americans have over the trophy in their own back yard?
On the four occasions the World Cup has been held in this corner of the world, a South American nation has emerged victorious. Uruguay won the inaugural tournament which they also hosted in 1930 and won it again in 1950 at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium. Brazil won their second title in Chile in 1962 and Argentina their first in 1978 when they played host.
The footballing map is far more compressed than it was three-and-a-half decades ago, so it is conceivable home advantage has ceded somewhat. In 2014, a trip to South America to take part in sport's biggest competition isn't as daunting as it may have been in 1978.
The world's top players are safely bedded at the world's premium clubs. They know each other inside out. Europe's leading lights will be down here to break another unwanted record.
And regardless of host nations, Spain is still the team to beat. Their run of three straight tournament victories is unprecedented, and, aside from a rather lacklustre showing at the Confederations Cup in June, have dominated world football in recent years.
Joachim Low's young German side is also coming of age and got the better of Brazil in the last meeting between the sides three years ago. Their young team dazzled in South Africa, and with a further four years of experience playing together, will be knocking on the door next year.
But it is impossible to think of playing in Brazil in mere sporting terms due to the sheer enormity of the country. Were you to travel from the deepest southern region to the tip of the north, you would clock up more air miles than a flight from London to Baghdad.
That means playing conditions across the 12 host cities can differ dramatically. A lot could rest on which group teams end up in when the draw is made on December 6, which region each match will take place in and how much traveling is involved between games.
In geographical terms, holding a World Cup in Brazil is akin to Michel Platini's idea to host the 2020 European Championships across major European cities. To make matters more complicated, FIFA have not insisted on playing group games in specific regions to minimize travel.
In order to try and make sense of what European teams could face, it is necessary to split the 12 host cities across four regions.
Porto Alegre and Curitiba are in the farther reaches of the south, and the climate is similar to Europe. June and July is Brazilian winter, so sides playing there should feel right at home.
Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte make up the trio of cities in the southeast. Whilst the weather will be warmer than in the south, it will not be unbearably hot for players used to a milder summer.
It is playing conditions further north and to the west where European teams may encounter the most difficulties.
Brasilia and Cuiaba are in Brazil's center-west area. Cuiaba is known for being the hottest city in the country, and even during the winter temperatures could reach in excess of 30 degrees. Likewise for the Amazonian city of Manaus and the northeastern quartet of Salvador, Natal, Recife and Fortaleza. Heat and humidity could play a major part in deciding this World Cup's destiny as teams are forced to slog it out in the mid-afternoon sun.
The vast riches pumped into European club football by the Champions League has attracted players from across the planet. The globalisation of the game has bred familiarity and a lack of fear. Europe's traditional giants, including Holland, France and Italy, will fancy their chances now more than ever before.
As long as geography doesn't get in their way.
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