Anticipation is an emotion involving excitement, pleasure and sometimes anxiety for an expected or longed-for event. It is definitely a good word to describe the 2014 World Cup in Brazil…or is it Brasil?? Hold that thought we’ll address that in a minute. Since FIFA officially announced on October 30th, 2007 that Brazil would host this World Cup, myself and millions of fans worldwide have eagerly been anticipating this summer’s blockbuster event. Brazil is THE place to host the World Cup, a country of soccer tradition, beautiful beaches, beautiful people, Carnival, Samba, caipirinhas, skimpy bathing suits, the Amazon, Iguaçu Falls and jogo bonito, the beautiful game. England may have invented the game but the heart, soul and life-blood of futebol is home to Brazil and its people…well most of them. This is the 2nd time they will host the world’s biggest event, the last being in 1950 when Uruguay shocked everyone and defeated the Seleção in the famous Maracana Stadium. This sent the host nation into a period of darkness and misery that Brazilians felt for years; they even refer to the debacle as the Maracanazo, which means the Maracana blow. Brazil was so favored their federation had already made winning medals for the players and the FIFA President had learned the trophy presentation in Portuguese. Journalists didn’t want to write about the loss, the players were vilified and the team actually changed their now jinxed national team jerseys forever from white to the now iconic yellow. It’s hard for the rest of the world to feel sorry for Brazil though, the Seleção have gone on to win a total of 5 World Cups, the most of any country, and are in prime position to win it again this year at home.
But keeping the trophy in Brazil will be tough for Neymar and company as Spain, Germany, and Argentina headline some of the favorites looking to ruin the samba celebration. Calling the winner now is tough but we do know there are some great group matches. Let’s take a look at the best game each day of the group phase after the jump.
- Brazil vs Croatia – June 12th: a glorious month of soccer opens with only one game as the hosts take on a tough Croatian side in Sao Paulo.
- Spain vs Holland – June 13th: Day 2 gives us this mouth-watering affair of a rematch of the 2010 Final from South Africa. Can Holland get their revenge and take control in this tough group against the powerhouse from the Iberian peninsula? Believe it or not you can get World Cup tickets to what might be the best game of the group stage starting at only $442 each – bummer for me and my traveling party as we will actually be on a plane to Brazil during this game…does Copa Air have satellite TV?!?
- England vs Italy – June 14th: Two European giants battling away in the heat and humidity of the Amazon – this could either turn into a classic or a snooze-fest. I’m going to predict the latter but it’s definitely a hot ticket.
- Germany vs Portugal – June 16th: Yes Portugal squeaked in via the European playoffs against Sweden, but any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo has a great chance to beat anyone. Germany are strong favorites after impressive showings in the last couple World Cups and have as good of a midfield as anyone…and who doesn’t like to say Bastian Schweinsteiger? The best part is I will be watching it live at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador and predicting a Germany win. Feel free to join me as tickets start at only $414 each.
- USA vs Ghana – June 16th: We had to skip the 15th to get this game on the list for good reason. Jürgen Klinnsmann’s squad face a tough group and really only a win must do in what all American fans are calling a revenge game against the Black Stars of Ghana who have knocked us out of the last 2 World Cups. The US will be backed by a pro-American crowd…wait, what?! Yes, more Americans are traveling to Brazil than fans from any other country in the World…who says this isn’t a soccer-loving country?! Landon Donovan needs to step up to the LD we know of old, our defense needs to sort itself out, Clint Dempsey needs to continue his form he is showing for Seattle and Jozy Altidore needs to find his scoring touch.
- Brazil vs Mexico – June 17th: Who will show up for Mexico…the former powerhouse that dominated our region or the latest incarnation that was saved in qualifying by the good ol’ USA to even have a chance to make the trip to Brazil? It should be an entertaining match but I’m predicting a solid win for the hosts.
- Spain vs Chile – June 18th: Chile may not boast many internationally known names but this is a squad that caused havoc in South Africa 2010 and run teams ragged with their entertaining, fast-paced play. Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez will be hoping he can get the best of many of his Barcelona teammates at the legendary Maracana in Rio. Spain legends Xavi and Iniesta will be looking to lead a dynasty with 2 back-to-back World Cup titles with a European title smack in the middle.
- Colombia vs Ivory Coast – June 19th: This game day also features Uruguay vs England but this match could decide the Group C winner. Colombia is desperately hoping their talisman, Radamel Falcao will be healthy after his battle to regain fitness from an ACL injury. Cote D’Ivoire or The Elephants as the team is nicknamed will be riding the back towering midfield presence of Yaya Toure who has as much skill, strength, speed and stamina as anyone in the game…he’s as much fun to watch as it is to say his name.
- Switzerland vs France – June 20th: I may be a bit biased naming this the game of the day as I will be there but it is the best game of the day and Switzerland has become a strong team and were matched up against their neighbors France at World Cup 2006. They also shocked eventual champs Spain 1-0 in the opener in South Africa 2010. Les Blues of France can field a team of players of the highest quality and skill as anyone in the world…but can they be a “team” and not the individuals that crashed out of 2010 without a win?
- Germany vs Ghana – June 21st: Depending on what happened in the first games in this group this could be a must-win for one of the teams. And it also gives us one of the most interesting storylines in the tournament as it’s the battle of brothers. Jerome Boateng will likely be starting in defense for Germany and his brother Kevin-Prince Boateng will lead Ghana from the midfield.
- USA vs Portugal – June 22nd: Can the US stop Ronaldo? Probably not totally but perhaps if we hold him to just 1 goal we can get at least a tie or a vital win. The rest of their team is solid but they’ve had their problems and rode the incredible scoring of Ronaldo to get into the tournament. The US team is typically one of the fittest and will be tested in the Amazonian conditions. We’ll be hi-tailing from what should be an entertaining Belgium vs Russia game to watch the USA game somewhere fun in Rio.
- Holland vs Chile – June 23rd: Now it really starts to get interesting as the final group games start and there are 4 games per day. This is likely going to be a life-or-death game with the loser missing out on the knockout stages. Will Holland have wilted in the South American sun or prove they have the chops? They’ll need their stars like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie playing well.
- Italy vs Uruguay – June 24th: I’m predicting this will be the battle for 1st place in Group D featuring players of great skill and also great drama. Italy will be hoping it’s the Mario “Why Always Me” Balotelli that can cause defenses havoc and create amazing goals. On the other side Uruguay features a tough frontline of Edinson Cavani and the dynamic, yet controversial Luis Suarez.
- Nigeria vs Argentina – June 25th: Of course Argentina are one of the tournament favorites and teams are going to have trouble with their world-class attack led by Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be looking to prove they are still Super and hoping to advance to the knockout stage. On a side-note, Sergio Aguero married the daughter of the legend, Diego Maradona, and they had a son…how good is that kid gonna be someday with those genes?!
- USA vs Germany – June 26th: So many storylines, so much on the line. Klinnsmann vs his homeland Germany, German-American players representing the USA, how many points will each team have coming in, can the US advance out of what has been called the Group of Death? Great seats are still available here #believe
Who do you think will win these games? What are the games you are looking forward to the most? Only 37 days to go and we do know this, it’s going to be fun, entertaining and it’s going to be a party….Samba-style.
Oh and you thought I was going to forget to address Brazil vs Brasil (that would actually be a great game as they have enough quality players). In English it is spelled with a “z” while in Portuguese it’s with an “s”. However it has been used both ways even there and it’s so much more fun to use a “z”…so we’ll stick with that.
And even more fun is coming up with your own Brazilian soccer name.