Fans from around the world can finally stop counting down the days as the 2014 World Cup is actually upon us, set to begin with an exciting opening ceremony.
Like the Olympic Games, this international event cannot begin without fanfare. As the hosts, Brazil has planned an extraordinary show that will remind onlookers of the nation itself.
While fans expect to be entertained by the ceremony, it really just signifies the start of the biggest sporting event in the world. This means that there will be plenty of excitement just with the anticipation of the first kick-off between Brazil and Croatia.
Here is a look at all the information you'll need leading up to the opening ceremony and first match.
When: Thursday, June 12
Where: Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Opening Ceremony Time: 2 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. BST
Match Kick-off Time: 4 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. BST
TV (U.S.): ESPN
TV (U.K.): ITV
What to Watch
The beginning of the ceremony will feature song and dance in a performance to celebrate the host nation's history and energy.
Daphne Cornez, the artistic director, described the event, via FIFA.com:
The Opening Ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people, football. The sense of excitement here is amazing and everyone is very motivated. It doesn’t matter whether they’re feeling tired or hot sometimes or if they have to go through routines again and again: they just keep on smiling. It’s amazing.
There will be dancers, musicians, gymnasts, trampolines and more as the participants attempt to portray a story while also creating a feast for the eyes.
With months of preparation going into a 25-minute routine, fans should expect quite a show.
While the main show will feature many unrecognizable acts, it will end with a performance by some of the world's biggest stars.
Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian artist Claudia Leitte will come together to perform their new collaborative hit entitled "We Are One (Ole Ola)." The song has become an international phenomenon in the past few weeks, amassing over 40 million hits on YouTube:
The track has become the official song of the 2014 World Cup, meaning fans will have heard it frequently by the tournament's end.
Leitte was quite excited to be a part of this tradition, telling FIFA.com:
I am very happy and thrilled to represent my country at the FIFA World Cup alongside these two amazing artists who I admire and respect. I love sharing my culture and country to people through music! The FIFA World Cup is one of the biggest events on the planet, and I look forward to dancing samba with Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez in Brazil—we are one!
It was believed that Lopez had pulled out of the proceedings after FIFA officials announced she was backing out of the performance, citing "production issues." However, a rep for Lopez told Sheila Cosgrove Baylis of People that wasn't the case:
Jennifer has always wanted to participate in the World Cup opening ceremonies. We have been trying to work out scheduling and logistics. Any statements to the contrary were premature. Jennifer would not want to disappoint her fans or fans of futbol. She will be there.
While there were supposed to be speeches from the event's organizers during the opening ceremonies, they have been scrapped to avoid extended protests, according to BBC News.
Finally, the football fans will get what they are waiting for at 5 p.m. local time when Brazil takes on Croatia in the first match of the World Cup.
While Brazil come into the tournament as one of the top contenders to win it all, Croatian star Luka Modric is still confident about the team's ability to pull off an upset, via Fox Sports:
Unfortunately, the underdogs will be without their best scorer, Mario Mandzukic, who is banned for the first match after picking up a red card in the final play-off match. Meanwhile, Sasa Ibrulj of ESPN FC notes that a loss could set the team back:
Croatia are a moody team; a lot depends on atmosphere, and an eventual loss to Brazil, no matter how expected it is, could push things downhill for them. On the positive side, all the pressure will be on the hosts and Croatia will have a second chance if they lose. So, why not believe in an element of surprise?
This seems like the most likely scenario with a Brazil squad loaded with world-class talent virtually everywhere on the pitch. The defense is as solid as they come, with Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and more, while Neymar will lead an extremely talented attack.
It will be an exciting first match no matter what, and it is certain to set the tone of the entire tournament for both sides.
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