The 2014 edition of the FIFA World Cup kicked off in style yesterday. In typical Brazilian fashion the inaugural proceedings began with much fanfare as a golden ball lit up the stadium with dancers and acrobats gracefully performing around it giving the crowd a taste of Brazilian culture. Following this, rapper Pitbull, Jeniffer Lopez and Brazilian pop star Cláudia Leitte performed the official anthem for this year “We are one” to an eager crowd.
The opening game between hosts Brazil and Croatia was a preview of what the coming days has in store. Never a team to be dismissed, five time champions and two time runners-up, Brazil (nicknamed “A Seleção” or the “Selection”) are a force to be reckoned with. Reconciling after a frustrating quarter final 2-1 loss to Netherlands back in 2010, Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his men have started off the campaign with a win. With the prodigious Neymar Jr, who has worked wonders for Barcelona since his debut with the club in 2013, Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia will give them a much deserved morale boost.
The last world cup final saw a clash between two of the best football teams in the world. The 116th minute goal by Andrés Iniesta against the Netherlands was one of the most memorable goals that gave Spain the spoils and bragging rights of being World Champion. Winning the bout on their first ever FIFA World Cup Final appearance in 2010, La Furia Roya (“The Red Fury”) as Spain is often called, has one of the strongest sides with big names like Andrés Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas among its ranks. As the two teams go head to head again on the second day, Netherlands will be looking for revenge.
Argentina will also look to recreate former coach and legend Diego Maradona’s 1986 World Cup run. The national squad holds some dynamic names on paper and is clearly one of the favourites this year. Ángel di María, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and Javier Mascherano are players who have established themselves in club football and are definitely to be watched out for on the field.
Having never entered the finals of the FIFA World Cup till date, Portugal will bank on their iconic number seven jersey holder, Christiano Ronaldo to bring in the glory it deserves. Also, Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammates Pepe and Fábio Coentrão will hope to provide a worthy defensive support to an otherwise lethal attack.
A number of big names have been excluded in this edition of the tournament. Argentinian, Carlos Tevez’s exclusion came as a shock to many. Tevez, top scorer for Juventus was a crucial force for the Serie A champions, scoring 19 goals for the side. France will also miss one of its most experienced attacking right-winger, Frank Ribéry through back injury. Similarly, the already star studded Brazilian side sees the likes of Coutinho, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Kaká being omitted even after the wonderful season they’ve had at their respective clubs.
This World Cup will mean the end of the line for a few notable players. Ashley Cole of England announced his retirement from International football after he was excluded from the world cup squad. Spanish forward, David Villa is also hanging up his shoes after Brazil.
Being the largest sporting spectacle in the world with an astonishing US$576million being invested in it, it being called the biggest football tournament till date. With an estimated 2.8 billion people watching the World Cup the world over, it will be an absolute test of nerves as every one of the 32 teams will want to prevail and etch their names in football history.