Next year will see Brazil host the FIFA World Cup for the second time – and it is hard to think of a better location than a Latin American country that lives and breathes football.
The ball game is played in the narrow, steep alleys of favelas, in parks, on concrete city streets and on world famous beaches like Copacabana. Football in Brazil is a religion. It is also flying the flag for the sport in South America, being the first World Cup on the continent since 1978.
Brazil has the best track record when it comes to World Cup football. Having taken home five trophies – eclipsing Italy (four wins) and Germany (three wins) – the Brazilians will be looking to do it again next year. There will be twelve cities that will host the matches all over the country. Here is a look at the three destinations where the crucial games will be played – the semi-finals and the final.
The semi-final: Sao Paulo
Stadium: Arena Corinthians
This stadium will hold the opening game of the World Cup as well as the semi-final. The opening game will feature the Brazilian team, and you can be assured that the atmosphere will be electric. This stadium will cater for 68,000 spectators and you can bet every seat, even in the nosebleed section, will be accounted for.
If Rio has the beaches, Sao Paulo has the nightlife. The clubbing scene in this city seems to run on unadulterated adrenalin from young Brazilians. As the largest city in Brazil population-wise, you can be assured of an unrivalled atmosphere when visiting. It is truly multicultural and, curiously, boasts the largest community of Japanese outside Japan. There are also six million people with Italian ethnicity here. To prove just how multicultural it is, there was once an Italian district which then became a Japanese district and is now populated by Chinese and Korean residents.
The third place decider: Brasilia
Stadium: Estadio Mane Garrincha
Catering for 70,000 cheering and jeering fans, this is a stadium with a World Cup legacy. Named after a legend of Brazilian football, Garrincha is credited with engineering Brazil’s World Cup wins of 1958 and 1962. The stadium was demolished and rebuilt in 2010 to accommodate the 2014 World Cup. Matches to be held here include the third place decider as well as the final 16 round and the quarter final. The stadium will also be used in the 2016 Olympic Games.
This city is what would happen if Doctor Spock gave up his passion for living long and prosperously, changed careers and turned his hand to town-planning. Like Canberra, this is a capital carved from calculation, not capricious whims. And like the Australian equivalent, it comes complete with an artificial lake. Everything has been thought out in meticulous detail and UNESCO rewarded the effort with a cultural heritage nod. For the record, that title has only gone to one city built in the 20th century. It may be well organised, but it is not staid. The capital has a lively restaurant and nightlife scene – as you’d expect from a place populated with party-loving Brazilians.
The Final: Rio De Janeiro
Stadium: Estadio do Maracana
This open-air stadium is the largest in Brazil. Accommodating nearly 79,000 spectators, it is also the largest stadium in South America. On a historical note, it was opened in 1950 to host Brazil’s first FIFA World Cup. The name Maracana pays homage to a river of the same name that cuts through the city.
In Rio, it would be a crime to forego the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema for football. However, the two will dovetail in what is sure to be a sun-drenched spectacle on Copacabana beach with the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup tournament.
The beaches are all about being seen and posto (posts) determine the best spots. On Ipanema beach, posto 9 is the place for the young and the beautiful. Posto 10 is the place for sports enthusiasts, and sunbaking space has been commandeered by soccer and volleyball games. The key beverages you’ll need are coconut water and beer – known as chopp. Both are over-represented at relaxed beachside kiosks. Come dusk, the kiosks become bars serving caipirinha’s along with live music.
World Cup Host Cities – the full list
Belo Horizonte – Minas Gerais
Bras√ålia – Federal District
Cuiab· – Mato Grosso
Curitiba – Paran
Fortaleza – Cear
Manaus – Amazonas
Natal – Rio Grande do Norte
Porto Alegre – Rio Grande do Sul
Recife – Pernambuco
Rio de Janeiro – Rio de Janeiro
Salvador – Bahia
Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo