World Cup 2014 City Guide: Cuiaba
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Bleacher Report is running a series of articles looking at the cities that are set to host the tournament next summer.
Having begun in Belo Horizonte and passed through Brasilia, we now arrive at our third host city, Cuiaba.
City: Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, Brazil
The modern-day metropolis of Cuiaba is made up of two neighbouring cities—Old Cuiaba and Varzea—which lie on opposite banks of the Cuiaba river (Rio Cuiaba).
The old city of Cuiaba dates back the gold rush in the early 18th century, when the area was discovered to have rich seams of gold that were suitable for mining. Per FIFA.com, the town lies equidistant between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the heart of South America.
While the town remained small in size for many years, gaining in size steadily, the population has grown dramatically in the past 50 years from well under 100,000 to more than 500,000 in Old Cuiaba itself.
Less humid than many of the host cities, Cuiaba does get very hot in the summer thanks to the shield provided by the nearby Chapada dos Guimaraes mountain range.
Stadium: Arena Pantanal
Replacing the former Estadio Jose Fragelli is the Arena Pantanal, named after the nearby Pantanal biome per CuiabaGuide.com. The Pantanal is a major tourist attraction in the area and the name is supposed to provide advertising for the area of natural beauty.
The multi-purpose ground will hold a capacity of 42,968 during the tournament, per FIFA.com, but will be reduced afterwards and adapted also to hold trade fairs and conferences.
As with many of the stadiums built for the World Cup, the facility has been built with eco-friendly planning, which FIFA note is appropriate for the stadium's "Big Green" or Verdao nickname.
After the competition, the reduced-capacity ground is likely to continue hosting matches involving the city's two big local sides.
Major Local Teams: Luverdense and Cuiaba
When it comes to Mato-Grossense football, Mixto are the traditional giants with 24 state championship titles to their name, playing in the Brasileirao during the 1970s and '80s. Historically, their major rivals have been 14-time winners Operario.
In the grand scheme of Brazilian football, though, neither packs any real punch; indeed, neither has enjoyed much success locally in recent years following the rise of Cuiaba and Luverdense—both of which were founded this century and are now in Serie C.
While Cuiaba play in the city whose name they have taken as their own, Luverdense's hometown of Lucas do Rio Verde is more than 200 miles from the state capital.
Major Landmark: Chapada dos Guimaraes
Not a landmark as much as a natural feature, the Chapada dos Guimaraes park to the north of the city offers stunning views and a variety of flora and fauna.
Lonely Planet says of the park:
The 33,000-ha (81,545-acre) Parque Nacional Chapada dos Guimaraes is located in the tablelands that mark the western edge of the Brazilian central plateau. It has several excellent walks to waterfalls and caves, or you can hire guides to lead you on overnight excursions. The two exceptional sights inside the park are the 60m (196ft) Veu de Noiva (Bridal Veil) falls and the Cidade de Pedra (Stone City).
If you are not hiring a car, excursions can be booked from hotels, hostels and tourist information offices in the city of Cuiaba.
Must-Eat Food: Pintado
Per pantanal-pocone.net, the local cuisine of Cuiaba and the Mato Grosso region consists mainly of fresh fish and, in particular, "pintado"—a catfish without scales or bones.
With plenty of cattle being raised nearby, traditional Brazilian churrasco (barbecue) is common, while the region also boasts a wide selection of fresh fruits which form part of the local diet.
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