South America Living

Brazil’s World Cup 2014

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Futebol (known as “soccer” in the USA) is the most popular sport in the world. Every four years, the international organization for football (FIFA = “Federation Internationale de Football Association”) holds its world championship, known as the “World Cup” since 1930. This year, the World Cup is being contested in Brazil – the largest nation in South America, whose team has won more (5) World Cup titles than any other. In Brazil, they call it “O Jogo Bonito” (The Beautiful Game)!

The World Cup runs from Thursday, June 12th, through Sunday, July 13th, all over Brazil. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate and enjoy this event, though. This is the largest event – of any kind – in the world (and the biggest thing ever in South America).

Matches will be played in 12 cities around Brazil, culminating with the Final on July 13th, and millions of visitors will make the continent’s largest country the party center of the world. This is a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about the fun-loving people and culture of Brazil.

Get to know the host cities of the World Cup

Museu Ipiranga, Sāo Paulo

Museu Ipiranga, Sāo Paulo

The first match is in Sāo Paulo – with a population of more than 20 million, it’s the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere, and a wonderful place to visit. With some of the finest dining in Latin America, a rich artistic and cultural scene, and first class tourist facilities, Sāo Paulo has become one of the world’s great must-see destinations.

The tournament’s opening match features the home team versus…. Croatia! This small Central European nation, whose population (about 4 million) is only a fifth that of the City of Sāo Paulo, is known as the inventor of the necktie ( hence the word “Cravat“). But don’t take them lightly in the Soccer tournament – in its first appearance in the World Cup in 1998, Croatia shocked the world, reaching the semi-finals and finishing third.

The 200-foot Elevador Lacerda in Salvador, Brazil's oldest elevator (built 1873).

The 235-foot Elevador Lacerda in Salvador, the world’s first large urban elevator (built 1873).

Six matches (including 2 in the playoff round) will be played in beautiful Salvador de Bahia, one of the oldest European settlements in the Americas (established in 1549). Today a bustling port city of more than 3 million people, it is known as Brazil’s “Capital of Happiness” because of its countless outdoor parties and the country’s largest Carnaval.

Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, Brasilia

Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, Brasilia

Brazil’s Capital City, Brasilia, will host 7 matches, including 3 in the playoff round. Founded in 1960, with iconic architecture by the great Oscar Niemeyer, this metropolis of almost 3 million is the only city in the world built in the 20th century to have been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Cuiaba will host four matches in the tournament. With a population of almost a million, Cuiaba is in the exact geographical center of South America – 2,000 kilometers from the Pacific and 2,000 kiloneters from the Atlantic. Known as “the southern gateway to the Amazon”, it sits at the junction of Brazil’s three major ecosystems: the savannahs of the Cerrado, the wetlands of the Pantanal, and the Amazon.

The southernmost city hosting soccer matches this year is Porto Alegre, whose two million people are proud of their heritage as Gauchos, drinking the maté infusion chimarräo, and enjoying a milder climate (with four distinct seasons) than the country’s other state capitals.

Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Team USA plays its first game June 16th in Natal – a city of tropical beaches which is the closest place to Europe in the Americas. Natal is known for its annual “Festa Junina“ – a midwinter carnival lasting most of the month of June and featuring costumes, revelry, fireworks and dancing in the streets. What a magical coincidence that this visitor-friendly city is hosting World Cup matches during the Festa!

Team USA’s third match is in Recife, a metropolitan area in Northeast Brazil of almost 4 million people. A city of beautiful beaches and bridges, it is known as the Venice of Brazil.

The host city for six matches (including a semi-final on July 8th) is Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais in Southeastern Brazil. BH, as it is known, has a metropolitan population of more than 5 million, a tropical climate and an annual festival in April called the “Comida di Buteco” when some 40 of the top bars square off in categories like hygiene, beer frigidity, service and, most importantly, best tira-gosto — or appetizer. Winners are decided not just by judges but by public ballot, giving Belo-Horizontinos an excellent excuse to go out every night for a month.

The "Wedding of the Waters" near Manaus

The “Wedding of the Waters” near Manaus

Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, will play host to four matches (including USA’s second, on June 22). A city of almost 2 million people, accessible almost exclusively by boat or air, it sits at the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes – where the Amazon begins, according to Brazilians (outsiders call the Solimoes the “Upper Amazon”).

Earlier this spring, the Secretary-General of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, visited the stadiums and cities where matches will be played. In Manaus, capital of the Amazonas state, he praised the city’s program that is training cab drivers to learn English and Spanish so football fans from around the world will be welcomed.

Six matches, including two in the playoff rounds, will be played in Fortaleza, the state Capital of Ceará in Northeastern Brazil. With a population of 2.5 million, Fortaleza (Portuguese for “fortress”) owes its name to the Schoonenborch Fort, built by the Dutch when they controlled the city in the mid-seventeenth century. Today it is a major tourist destination with world-class hotels, restaurants and beaches.

Curitiba, capital of the southern state of Paraná, will host four World Cup matches at the historic Arena de Baixada. A major economic center, this city of 1.8 million is one of the most “green” cities in the world, and is home to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, designed by the great architect himself.

Soccer in Rio

Soccer in Rio

The Championship match of the tournament (as well as six before it) will be played on July 13th in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful and best-loved cities in the world. The capital of Brazil from 1764 to 1960, its iconic sites include Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema, Copacabana, Sugarloaf and a host of others. Not just during its world-famous Carnaval, but year-round, this is a first-class tourist destination. After the World Cup trophy game ends, the world’s best athletes and sports fans will start counting the days until they return to Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio

Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio

Interesting World Cup News and Notes

– Are some of Brazil’s host cities dangerous sources of Dengue Fever? Here’s an article that says one scientific study is warning travelers to be cautious to avoid Dengue in three World Cup cities: Dengue Danger?

Pele in action

Pele in action

– The legendary Pele believes that Brazil is going to host a fantastic World Cup despite the political problems that plague the country.

– Listen to the song you will be hearing everywhere in the next few months – the Official Song of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – “We Are One (Ole Ola)”, written and co-produced by Pitbull and featuring Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian star Claudia Leitte. Click here to listen to the song which will be the soundtrack to this year’s event, and get ready for more World Cup music from Santana, Wyclef, Ricky Martin, Shakira and more!!!!!

– Check out this inspirational television ad in support of Chile’s National Team for the World Cup, featuring those miners who spent 69 days underground.

– Before the opening game of the World Cup, a paralyzed Brazilian will not only walk, but will kick the ceremonial first ball, using an exoskeleton controlled by the brain. This futuristic demonstration will show off the incredible work of Brazilian scientist and visionary Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, who is creating life-changing technology that you thought only existed in science fiction. Learn more about the inspiring Brazilian scientists whose patients will kick off the World Cup, by clicking here.

Brazilian kids playing futebol on the beach

Brazilian kids playing futebol on the beach

This World Cup is in so many ways a coming-out party not just for Brazil, but for all of Latin America! Share your stories in the comments.

As always…

Buen Viaje!




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