FIFA World Cup: 50 Reasons Why Brazil 2014 Will Be the Best Ever
The 2014 FIFA World Cup creeps ever closer, with final plans being drawn up and squads being mulled over—even ahead of regular domestic campaigns still ongoing.
Held just once every four years, the World Cup is a major tournament of stunning atmosphere, excitement and anticipation, with the game's biggest prize at the end of it.
Germany and South Africa both put on exemplary, fantastic showpiece events, but this is Brazil. With 50 days to the big kick-off, here's why this one could be the best ever.
Back in Brazil
Where else would you want to be part of a major football tournament but Brazil?!
It might not be the original home of the game, but it's certainly the fatherland of much of the world's fascination with the sport.
Brazil has not hosted a World Cup since 1950. Now, 64 years later, a far more modern and expanded version comes to the country...and we're all very excited about it.
Favourites on Home Soil
Brazil go into most major tournaments as one of the favourites to win, and that isn't going to come down any—nor will the pressure or expectancy on the team to perform—with it being on home soil.
OK, so Spain might be most bookmakers' favourites, but Brazil will lead the way with others.
Either way, we're in for a footballing treat from the yellow shirts.
First World Cup for Neymar
The hopes of the nation rest upon the shoulders of Barcelona forward Neymar, who plays a left-sided attacking role for the national team and whom the fans will look to for quality, goals and creativity.
Then-manager Dunga deemed him not ready for the 2010 World Cup as an 18-year-old—but Neymar will be the main man now, at 22, in his own country.
Can he provide the necessary resilience and consistency to win the tournament?
Other Stars Following Suit: Balotelli, Goetze, Reus
Neymar isn't the only one travelling to his first World Cup finals. Italy's Mario Balotelli will be hoping to lead the line for his nation, while Germany duo Marco Reus and Mario Goetze will approach their own first finals in good form.
Others, such as Sergio Aguero of Argentina, won't be at their first finals, but they will be hoping to play a significant part for the first time.
Big Nations Have All Qualified
Everywhere you look in the group stages, major nations rear their heads.
Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, England, Italy, Portugal, USA, Colombia, Uruguay...the historical, the great and the exciting, all of them are there this time.
There were no dramatic failures from top nations, and plenty of resurgent ones made it through this time around.
Messi and Ronaldo, Both in Their Prime
The world's best two players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, will be on show in Brazil.
Aged 26 and 29, respectively, both are heading to the 2014 World Cup in their prime ages, having shown immaculate form over the past two or three seasons.
Ronaldo has had the edge this season, but will that result in international honours for Portugal?
South American Contingent
A whopping 60 percent of South American nations will be participating in the World Cup on their own continent.
With only four nations from that qualifying zone guaranteed passage to the finals, the intercontinental play-offs—and Brazil being hosts—meant that that number expanded by a third this time around.
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay will be involved in the summer. There is no negative spin whatsoever to take from this; everyone loves seeing their team face a South American side, simply because it happens so infrequently.
It cannot be denied that Brazil's preparations for the finals have been hit by problems and delays to the newly built stadiums around the nation, but those which are (or will be) completed should make for fantastic settings.
Five new stadiums, one rebuilt venue and several remodelled ones means we'll be playing in essentially completely new grounds.
The World Cup always has a party atmosphere!
And it just so happens that Brazil has a—ridiculously over-stereotyped, perhaps—reputation for partying, too.
It all adds up to what should be—around the games and grounds, at least—an exciting and all-encompassing time of fun, making acquaintances and enjoying the entire month-long festival of football.
Talking of festivals, Brazil does those quite well, too, and it just so happens that a rather big one occurs around the time of the World Cup.
The Bumba Meu Boi festival takes place in July, for those who are lingering around or past the end of the World Cup, in the Amazon region.
Undoubtedly, there will be several "unofficial" or irregular festivals taking place during the tournament, too.
Argentina vs. Brazil
It could happen!
Argentina have a great squad and will be hopeful of going far in the tournament. Should both they and Brazil win their groups, the two South American heavyweights could meet in the final.
One finishing as runner-up would mean a potential meeting at the semi-final stage.
Confederations Cup Success
Brazil will be hopeful of tasting success in the tournament, on and off the field.
The Confederations Cup of 2013 showed that, on a smaller scale, the nation was ready to handle the pressures of hosting the tournament, while the team itself proved they had what it took to deliver the goods.
This will be a big step up for both, and a time to shine.
Social Side of Brazil
Caipirinhas, sun, street parties, dancing in the sunset and all those other fun times associated with Brazil—that's what people will be going to experience, alongside the football, when they head over for the World Cup in 2014.
For many people, it's the trip of a lifetime, and one into which they'll incorporate a lot of long-held ambitions. The social scene of the nation will be a big backdrop to the main event.
Emerging and Improving Nations
There might be favourites—clear favourites, even—but there are also many countries who go to the World Cup with the knowledge that they are in the midst of a process to grow, improve and sustain success.
Chile, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and others can all claim to be in that group of nations.
They'll all face their own challenges but also believe they can overcome them to a certain degree and achieve comparative success at the finals.
First-Time Appearance for Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina will make their debut appearance at the World Cup finals, having progressed from their UEFA qualifying zone after topping Group G.
With their rise from a fledgling nation to World Cup qualifier now complete, they've taken five attempts to negotiate the qualification stage and reach the finals proper.
Considering their population of less than four million, that's an impressive upward trajectory which sees the likes of Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic now heading to Brazil.
Football and drinking aside, there is of course plenty to do in Brazil.
From Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue to Iguazu Falls, the sights and cultural intake that the nation can offer is beyond impressive.
For every type of traveller, there is an enormous amount to get through in the country which perhaps even the month-long visitor—for the entire World Cup, of course—wouldn't get around to seeing all of.
And then there are the beaches.
Copacabana Beach likely doesn't need an introduction, but the regions of Bahia, Sao Paulo and Rio all boast their own stretches of sand and sea to admire.
Of course, Brazil also has stretches of islands to visit just off the coast.
While you're at a beach, why not join in a game?
Brazilian kids playing street football might be the archetypal idea of the poor-kids-made-world-superstars, but beach football is huge.
Brazil have appeared at 17 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, more than any other nation, and have won it 13 times, again more than any other. In 2013, they finished third.
Mountains and Rainforests
If beaches aren't your thing, the landscape of the nation changes so drastically that it doesn't particularly matter.
Spectacular rainforests, awesome mountain ranges and plenty in between conspire to make the country a constantly shifting experience.
It all combines to allow those visiting for the World Cup itself to enjoy a varied and diverse experience—and an unforgettable one, no doubt.
B/R feature writer Chris Atkins has detailed plenty of the major cities for the World Cup already, and it's clear that even within each built-up area, there are enormous differences to appreciate.
Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Recife—wherever you are headed, and especially for those fans travelling to more than one city or match, a stay in each city is sure to be an eye-opener in many ways compared to being at home, wherever that may be.
Out of the land and into the stadium, where we find a new noisemaking device.
Whether the caxirola—a rattling instrument—turns out to actually make viewing a more pleasant experience remains to be seen...but at least it has to better than the vuvuzelas, right?
Comparatively Lower Prices
This is rather subjective, depending on where the reader—or the visitor—is coming from, but prices should be a little lower for everyday items than, say, in Europe, where most nations will be coming from.
A pint of beer, for example, comes out to just over £1 in Sao Paulo, as per pintprice.com, compared to almost £2.50 in Berlin (2006 World Cup) and £1.15 in Johannesburg (2010 World Cup).
Small mercies, perhaps, considering the cost of a match ticket.
Evenly Matched Groups
We usually see a Group of Death, a few obvious candidates to go through and a few nations who might struggle, but this time around everything seems, dare we say it, fairly even?
There are several groups where at least three nations will fancy their chances of qualification, while in Groups C, E and H in particular, all four might believe they have a chance.
It will make for tense opening games, perhaps, but also a lot of excitement as the tournament progresses.
The Surprise Package Team
There's always one. A South Korea into the last eight, an African side making the knock-out stages—whoever.
Some nation always manages to pop up, scrape through the groups and then cause a bit of a fuss in the knock-outs, sending out one of the bigger countries and threatening another upset along the way.
Perhaps one will come from Group A, where Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon might all pose difficult barriers in the knock-out stages.
Spain Looking for Another Title
Spain won the World Cup in 2010, and they also bookended that with 2008 and 2012 European Championship victories.
They are the best side at international level over the past half-dozen years, and despite not winning the Confederations Cup, they'll be the team to beat.
Everyone will be gunning for them, whilst Iker Casillas, Xavi and co. will be determined to show the world they are still the best.
It's not all about Brazil and Spain.
Belgium, Colombia and perhaps even Uruguay, France and Portugal will all fancy their chances of going far in the tournament. With a bit of luck, they could end up as one of the last few remaining sides.
Injuries, form and stand-out individuals will make the difference after that.
Nations Dominated by Clubs
England suddenly find themselves with up to half the side featuring starting Liverpool players, with the emergence of the likes of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge this season.
Spain continue to have a large Barcelona contingent, with Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Sergio Busquets all probably heavily involved.
Russia could field a side made almost entirely of CSKA Moscow and Zenit players.
The list goes on. Increasingly, we can see nations whose starting XIs are dominated by the top handful of club teams in that domestic league. It's an exciting prospect for fans of those clubs to see how they fare on the international stage, when different team-mates and tactics apply.
Final Call to Arms for Legendary Italians?
Italy's squad contains plenty of seasoned veterans, several of which are World Cup winners themselves.
Gianluigi Buffon is now 36 years of age, while Daniele De Rossi is 30. Both are key parts of the squad who could easily be looking at their last World Cup.
Other 30-somethings include Andrea Barzagli (32), Christian Maggio (32), Andrea Pirlo (34), Thiago Motta (31) and Alberto Gilardino (31). It's a large chunk of the squad which could need replacing between now and the next tournament.
Do we really need to say anything else? No? Good.
Plenty More Veterans on Show
The Italians are hardly the only nation with top-class veterans in their squad list.
Brazil 2014 could be the last international setting for the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Patrice Evra, Dirk Kuyt, Miroslav Klose and plenty of others.
They'll all want to have their own impact, having contributed many years of service until now for their respective nations.
Stellar List of Captains
The 2014 World Cup will see a gold-star list of captains on the international team sheets.
Steven Gerrard, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Silva, Leo Messi...the list goes on and on.
For a range of reasons, from the inspiration in the dressing room to the on-pitch example, this year's World Cup should host a plethora of skippers who can inspire their team to greater heights than ever before.
Legends of the Host Nation on Hand
The host nation has plenty of star names of yesteryear at their disposal and seem set on making the most of the situation.
Cafu, Pele, Romario and many more have already lent their services to the country's build-up needs, and it's doubtless they—and others—will be seen on dignitary duty throughout the tournament.
Germany's Golden Generation?
Jogi Low has had a significant spell in charge of the German national team now, with the exciting but raw side of previous tournaments having gelled into major players in the club game, winning trophies at home and abroad with Bayern Munich, in particular.
Has a large part of that squad now peaked? It could well be the case, and we'll finally get to see if Low and his coaching staff can lead the group to glory.
They have a great squad, no doubt, but does it have all the ingredients to bring the World Cup home?
World Cup Kits
Whether you fall into the camp of thinking the World Cup kits are a rip-off gimmick or an exciting differentiation of national style, there's little argument against a lot of people looking forward to the release of each country's replica shirt.
The colours, crests and patterns are often the most immediately identifiable part of the country during the tournament, with flags, banners and home fans all decked out in complementary colour schemes.
Moving with style, technology and fashion, the latest bunch of kits will doubtless bring even more to the tournament than meets the eye.
Remember all the furore surrounding the Jabulani ball?
This time around, we've got the Brazuca.
We'll see what effect it has once the tournament gets underway, but it certainly brings a snazzy design and a catchy name.
Not Too Many High-Profile Injuries?
Radamel Falcao, Christian Benteke and Giuseppe Rossi may all miss the World Cup with injury.
It's a terrible blow in each case for player and nation alike, of course, but perhaps compared to previous tournaments, there haven't been quite as many of the biggest players looking likely to miss out.
That could all change over the last few weeks of the domestic seasons, but hopefully it won't. If Sami Khedira and one or two others make their expected returns, we may not have too many big names missing at all.
If there's a bigger improvement to World Cup 2014 compared to 2010, England fans have yet to hear it.
Last of the Controversial Tournaments?
Four years is a long time in football, and one can only hope that the powers on high deem it a worthwhile period to introduce whatever measures are necessary so that avoidable, pointless mistakes are eradicated from a referee's (and his assistants') game.
Please, no more third yellow cards, no more hilariously bad offside calls, no more off-the-ball incidents going unspotted.
Too much to ask? Maybe so. But this tournament should mark the end of an era of highly dubious officiating calls.
The reign of 4-2-3-1 seems over at international level.
It's far from unused, of course, but from Italy's habit of switching from a back three to England's new-found 4-3-3 and Uruguay's penchant for changing tactics within games, there is a far wider variety of tactics in use at this level.
This year, at least.
Rise of Social Media
Facebook has grown even further, Twitter has exploded onto the scene, and Vine has given everybody—for now, at least—instant access to replays of goals.
It all contributes to the world of football being at everybody's fingertips—on phones, computers or any other devices—within moments of the action taking place on the pitch.
Opinions are formed, debated over and dissected with a moment's notice. Bring on the games, bring on the discussions.
Cost of the World Cup
The World Cup in Brazil has cost in excess of $10 billion to develop and host, a massive excess on any previous FIFA flagship tournament.
While expenditure doesn't necessarily equate to enjoyment and success, it is a fair expectation that a far greater outlay should mean better services, infrastructure and potential ability to enjoy the tournament.
Could FIFA do more? Undoubtedly. They'll never please everybody. But imploring Brazil to spend such vast sums on the tournament is going as far along their path to guarantee success as they ever have.
Three Million Fans in Attendance
Supporters make the game, nobody else.
Without them, local businesses, fan parks, full stadiums—none of it would benefit, impress or be worth having.
For the entirety of Brazil's World Cup, there should be more than three million tickets sold. Enjoy it, guys and girls.
For those who can't get into matches on any given day, fan fests and parks should be spaced out around the nation to enable get-togethers and big celebrations and encourage a terrific atmosphere.
Meeting and mingling with supporters of other nations can bring out the best in a World Cup and those who go to experience the entire affair.
The fan-fest parks are certainly a great place to sample such togetherness.
Is there any reason this has not been incorporated in major leagues and tournaments before?
Right. One step forward for football, and then, one step back for the wall.
Streaming, Mobile Devices, Consoles and Games
With Internet connections, legitimate streaming possibilities and live coverage on plenty of mobile devices this summer, the World Cup will be more accessible than ever before.
Even hooking up a video-game console is going to get you access, in certain countries, that would not otherwise have been possible.
And after the live games are done, fans the world over will be replaying them on official video games and other such merchandise. The World Cup is already in your living rooms.
Protests and crime are factors which could make the World Cup memorable in the wrong ways for people—no point in trying to hide it. But both of these come with big cities, with the world's collective eye upon them, whatever the occasion. That's not to belittle or degrade the causes of those protesting; rather, it's for the organisers of the event to overcome, reassure or protect against.
Close to $1 billion has been spent on security for the World Cup, with the plan to have one police officer for every 50 fans in the stadiums, or every 80 fans out on the streets.
The aim is to promote a feeling of well-being, safety and protection, of course. Do that, and folks can focus on having a good time and enjoying their host country and all that it has to offer.
Precursor to Rio 2016
Brazil has a big few years of sporting excellence ahead.
The Confederations Cup was a success, the World Cup is almost upon us, and Rio will host the 2016 Olympics, another major sporting event.
It should mean that every effort continues to be made to ensure locations, venues, buildings and services are up to scratch, making sure the continual eye of the world is impressed rather than repulsed by what the cities and the nation as a whole have to offer.
The Young Guns
We've covered the veterans who are perhaps hoping to make one last impression, but what about the other end of the scale?
There are a number of youthful talents who could shine in Brazil, with youth, pace, power and technique a fearsome combination in modern football.
Raheem Sterling (pictured) of England is certainly one who could make a big impact, while Mattia De Sciglio, Lucas Moura, Mario Goetze, Mateo Kovacic, Paul Pogba and others could follow suit. All are 21 years of age or under.
The Managers Looking to Make an Impact
What of those on the sidelines?
The World Cup will provide us with a close look at a number of esteemed names in the game, with plenty of reason to hope they can showcase their leadership skills and tactical acumen. Some, perhaps, have their eyes on new jobs after summer, at club level, where a good World Cup can make the difference between a good club and a great one asking after their services.
Big Phil's Attempts to Repeat 2002 Success on Home Soil
We finish up, of course, with Brazil and their manager.
Luiz Felipe Scolari.
However you refer to the Brazilian national team boss, he's a bit of a legend, having won a host of honours at club level, and nothing less than the World Cup itself with Brazil in his first spell back in 2002.
They haven't won it since then, but they will be completely confident of their ability to do so this time around. If their manager can land that title again, he may be elevated to a status comparable with the likes of Pele and Ronaldo: a giant hero of the nation who has brought pride and glory back to the land of football.