What can we expect from the marriage of the world’s biggest football competition and a country which loves the sport so much? The answer is a unique celebration, capable of stirring the emotions of any fan of the beautiful game. On 12 June 2014 the next FIFA World Cup™ will get underway at the Arena de Sao Paulo, in the capital of Sao Paulo state. As of today, which is Valentine’s Day in Brazil, there will be just two years left to wait for that dream to become reality.
This match made in heaven has taken 64 years for its vows to be reaffirmed, with Brazil’s first hosting of the FIFA World Cup coming when the competition was still a relatively young event. The 1950 showpiece was only the fourth edition, while many European countries were immersed in trying to heal the wounds of the Second World War. Indeed, there was not even the need for a qualifying phase, as just 13 national sides took part.
A painful first encounter
That first taste of married life between the global event and Brazil ended badly for the Brazilians, who saw the world title slip through their fingers in a Maracana stadium packed with nearly 200,000 spectators. To date, that remains the biggest ever crowd in the history of Planet Football.
“Back in 1950 I was a football-mad youngster,” recalled the Chairman of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Organising Committee (LOC), Jose Maria Marin. “I was playing for Sao Paulo at the time, and I know how much pain the Brazilian people went through back then. Hosting another FIFA World Cup is a dream for thousands of supporters and I’m certain we’re going to be able to put on an unforgettable competition.”
Brazil went on to win the FIFA World Cup three times before even contemplating resuming their relationship with the planet’s biggest football event. To be more specific, this change of heart came around in the mid-1980s. Colombia had been due to host the finals in 1986 and it was their withdrawal that made Brazil once again begin to entertain the possibility of hosting the FIFA World Cup once more. A tentative flirtation thus began and, though FIFA ended up opting for 1970 hosts Mexico, the seed was well and truly sown in Brazilian soil.
So much so that, in 1986, Brazil wore its heart on its collective sleeve and started preparing its bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup, a contest in which they came up against USA and Morocco. Brazilian officials at the time accepted their country would need to be better prepared in order to bring the showpiece event back to their shores, and so it proved with USA awarded hosting rights in 1988.
The years went by and the desire to welcome the final tournament back continued to grow, with Brazil going on to submit their candidacy for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However, the decision was later taken to pull out of the running, with a view to preparing still more thoroughly for a bid for a subsequent finals.
That finals would not be the 2010 edition either, as the continental rotation process established by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter meant that it was Africa’s moment to shine. South America would get its chance in 2014.
Yet the relationship between Brazil and the FIFA World Cup was not all smooth going even then, with Colombia going so far as to present a rival candidacy, only to later withdraw. Brazil were the only pretenders still in the running, and they proved they were ready to host the FIFA World Cup for a second time. The decision was formally announced in 2007 and the date for the reunion was thus finally set for 2014.
“Now we’ll have to prove that we’re capable of welcoming with care and attention all those people that’ll come to Brazil to watch the FIFA World Cup,” said former Seleção legend Bebeto, currently a member of the Management Board of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil LOC. “We’ve got the opportunity to change the image of Brazil with this competition. We need to all pull together to make this the best FIFA World Cup of all time.”
Now just two years of very hard work and equal levels of anticipation remain until FIFA World Cup fever can once again take over Planet Football, thanks to the perfect union of this most thrilling of sports and a country whose passion for the game remains undimmed.