Brazil is many things, and one of those things is indisputably soccer. You only have to look at its track record:  5 World Cups for the senior team, 5 for the under-20s, 3 for the under-17s, 5 for futsal and 4 for beach soccer; 8 times winner of the Copa America, 5 times winner of the Confederations Cup, and dozens of continental trophies.  Legendary players such as “the King” Pelé, Leônidas, Garrincha, Didi, Vavá, Zagallo, Tostão, Zico, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Sócrates, Bebeto, Romario, Cafú, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos all hail from Brazil, as well as more recent stars including Kaká, Neymar and Leandro Damião. They are the inventors of the Beautiful Game, the back-heeled penalty and all kinds of fancy footwork that have left fans open-mouthed.  So, for the locals, to host the World Cup of the most popular sport on the planet is a true honor into which they will put their heart and soul. Brazil is one of those countries, like Argentina and Uruguay (which has brought forward the date of its general election to avoid it clashing with its matches), where everything goes on hold when the national team plays.

The 2014 World Cup will begin on June 12 in the São Paulo Arena, the only newly-built stadium, which will also host one of the semi-finals. It will end on July 13 in the legendary Maracaná, the largest stadium in the world, where most of the matches will take place, and which has already hosted a World Cup final – in 1950, when Brazil lost 2-1 to Uruguay.

The Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte, the Pantanal Arena in Cuiabá, the Castelão Stadium in Fortaleza, the Das Dunas Stadium in Natal, the Pernambuco Arena in Refice, the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, the National Stadium in the capital Brasilia, the da Baixada Arena in Curitiba, the Amazonia Arena in Manaos, the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, the Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro and the São Paulo Arena are the chosen venues for the matches for an event which is sure to be remembered for many years.  The stadiums have all been refurbished so as to host the games with greater security and to improve accessibility, comfort, services offered to fans, communications and conditions in general for a country with soccer in the blood.

There will no doubt be more than a few who will take this opportunity to visit a country which offers much more than a ball game, yet whose history cannot be told without mention of the players who have thrilled millions.

 

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