If there is one country that unequivocally deserves to host a FIFA World Cup™, it has to be Brazil. The South American nation not only lives and breathes the game with a religious intensity, it is also a five-time winner of football's premier competition and has been an ever-present at the tournament. It was against this backdrop that the Brazilian population, with an outpouring of joy that comes so naturally to them, greeted the news on 30 October that they had been granted the right to host their second FIFA World Cup.
By then, of course, 64 years will have passed since Flavio Costa's side took part in the unforgettable game known the world over as the Maracanazo. On the evening of 16 July 1950, in what was the deciding match of that year's FIFA World Cup, a Uruguay side captained by Obdulio Varela shattered the host nation's dreams with a defeat that still hurts to this day. Perhaps now, the Auriverde will be able to consign that agonizing episode to history once and for all.
Former player and national team coach Mario Zagallo, having been involved in four of Brazil's five world title victories, is ideally placed to speak for his near-190 million compatriots and is no doubt as to what is required of them. "We need to win the 2014 title to emulate Uruguay and Argentina, who both won this trophy on home soil," he said.
*From triumph to triumph * In the same way the English are considered the inventors of the game, Brazil have earned themselves the title of 'kings of football' - and not without some justification. Not only have they lifted more world titles than anyone else, they have also won the most games and scored the most goals during the finals.
Those feats, coupled with their unique passion for and enjoyment of the beautiful game, has situated them at the pinnacle of world football. Indeed, what country could not be moved by such luminaries as Garrincha, Didi, Vava, Zagallo, Tostao, Zico, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Socrates, Bebeto, Romario, Cafu, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos?
For all that, the Seleção had to wait until 1958 in Sweden to claim their first world title, a victory inspired by the genius of the then 17-year-old Pele. Interestingly, this would prove to be the only time a South American side would lift the world crown on European soil. Four years later, the magic of Garrincha would be one of the highlights of their triumph at Chile 1962, a feat they would repeat at Mexico 1970 with that unforgettable Brazilian side.
With the subsequent retirement of O Rei, the Canarinhos struggled in vain to recapture past glories, and 24 years of frustration ensued before they next stood on the summit of world football. That forgettable sequence finally came to an end at USA 1994, where Romario, Bebeto and Co inspired Carlos Parreira's side to a world title win at the expense of Italy, the first Final to be decided on penalties.
Brazil went on from there to reach back-to-back Finals: at France 1998, when they lost out to the hosts; and at Korea/Japan 2002, where Ronaldo had too much firepower for opponents Germany. A slip-up at Germany 2006 has only strengthened the desire for revenge in a side that currently boasts such figures as Kaka, Ronaldinho and Robinho, and a disciplined coach in the form of ex-international Dunga.
Anyone still in doubt of the country's pedigree need only glance at the history books: Brazilian sides have also won no fewer than four FIFA U-20 World Cups, three FIFA U-17 World Cups, two FIFA Confederations Cups, three FIFA Club World Cups, three FIFA Futsal World Cups and one FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Structure and expectations
In 2014 the FIFA World Cup will return to South America after 36 years, although hosting a world championship will be nothing new for Brazil following their recent organisation of the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000 and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups of 2005, 2006 and 2007.
On this occasion, however, the country will need all hands on deck to build and remodel the stadiums that will grace the host cities in 2014. Among these is the mythical Maracana, the ground that was purpose built for the 1950 finals and which presently houses a museum celebrating the glories of the country's proud footballing past.
The fifth largest country on earth, which occupies almost half the territory of South America, Brazil has 18 cities aspiring to be among the final 12 chosen to host the event in seven years' time. Those currently vying for selection are Belem, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Campo Grande, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Florianopolis, Fortaleza, Goiania, Maceio, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio Branco, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sao Paulo.
Regardless of the 12 finally chosen, the FIFA World Cup will be heading back to a country where football is king, as reiterated yesterday by the country's president, Lula da Silva: "We may be a country with many problems, but our people are used to surpassing themselves and fighting to achieve wonderful things. This tournament will be one of those things and we'll put on an extraordinary World Cup."
The world of football will be expecting nothing less.