In a little over a week, a tournament will commence that millions around the world wait for during an excruciatingly long four-year period. It’s a contest that players, coaches, and fans take immense interest in, and even elicits mild curiosity from the casual spectator. Many follow the progress of their national teams in the four year intervals, eagerly watching their development until the time comes when the squad is finally announced: the twenty-three that will represent their country on the world’s largest stage.
This year, the stage is set in Brazil and the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo with the host nation playing Croatia. It’s a moment that has been anticipated since the finale of the 2010 edition when Spain lifted the trophy in South Africa and proclaimed themselves champions of the world. It almost seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it?
It was a moment to appreciate the present, reflecting on all the matches the summer had offered and the brilliance the world had seen in each one, but it was also a time to envision what the following World Cup would offer. Brazil seemed so far off, yet so near. With the history the country offers as the all-time leading champion, Brazil presents itself as a land of intrigue and infinite possibilities with its size and diversity.
Since the moment FIFA announced the 2014 World Cup would be hosted by Brazil, the reaction to the news was a complete mixture of appreciation and derision. Much of the negativity stemmed from within the borders of Brazil, interestingly enough, and focused heavily on the construction of the new stadiums built specifically for the tournament. With costs skyrocketing past initial expectations, deadlines falling drastically behind schedule, entire neighborhoods moved out due to their decrepit appearances and proximity to the venues, and numerous injuries and deaths resulting from poor working conditions, the entire affair had many wondering whether the contest would even be a positive experience.
Does the World Cup provide dreams of a bright summer and even brighter future, or simply undelivered promises hidden underneath the hype and expectations?
It’s interesting the differing perspectives and opinions that a single event can create; however, it’s not too difficult to grasp as the World Cup literally affects the activities of entire nations that live and breathe soccer. Businesses cut hours, people skip work, crowds gather at bars, pubs, and restaurants (anywhere with access to a television and alcohol), and soon the chants begin. National anthems, players’ names, the tournament’s official song—it could be anything, as long as it fuels the fire of passion.
As the opening date of the group stage draws near, it doesn’t take long to notice people on the streets sporting the jerseys and waving the flags of their country. It’s a moment to take pride in your nation as the selected players represent you.
Any time the prestigious tournament rolls around, the sport catches the attention of the United States for a brief amount of time. Numerous television networks fight for the broadcasting rights, as the ratings for soccer seem to soar during the period despite never recreating those strong numbers any other time of the year. It begs the question of, “does the U.S. have a passionate enough of a following to warrant any success the team may garner in the tournament?”