FIFA World Cup, the penultimate championship games in football (soccer) that preoccupies much of the sporting world and the public at large every four years since its inaugural debut in 1930. This year, the World Cup will be hosted by Brazil. It will be the second time for the South American country to host the prestigious sporting event. Their first time was in 1950.
Eight different teams have been champions. National teams that have occupied the top spots include Brazil, West Germany, Argentina, and Spain. France, England, Uruguay have also been winners. Let us tour some of the countries that are playing in the World Cup this June 2014.
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Brazil has made an appearance in all of the World Cup Championships since its inaugural game and it is the only country to have this distinction. It has won the Cup five times, the most for any country. Brazil’s first win was in 1958 and followed it up in 1962. The country won again in 1970, 1994 and in 2002. Pelé is Brazil’s most outstanding player of all time. Of the current batch, there are several names that standout, such as Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
Brazil has the famous Sugarloaf Mountain, the dunes and beaches in the northeast, the Amazon rainforest and the exciting cities of Santa Catalina, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. If you are after culture, there is Minas Gerais. The rivers in Bonito, located in Mato Grosso do Sul are famous for their crystal clear waters, which allow people to go snorkelling.
Learn to dance the samba, listen to bossa nova, and watch exciting games, such as capoeira and football. Best times to visit Brazil is from January to March and from August to December.
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Portugal made its first World Cup appearance in 1966, where it reached the semi-finals, which it lost to England, the eventual champion. In its World Cup history, one of the top players was Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, who helped steer the team to its third place finish in the World Cup in 1966. Eusébio, like Pelé, is another football all-time great. In this year’s Cup, the best known player is Cristiano Ronaldo, the national team captain.
One of the best months to visit Portugal is in February, when the countryside is full of colourful blooms. In Portugal it is the almond blossoms that signify that spring has arrived. Peak season is in July and August. Otherwise, autumn is your next option. Madeira, Algarve and Lisbon are the most visited cities in Portugal. The country’s rich history, its beautiful buildings and monuments, such as Belem and the National Palace of Peña, the fado bars in Alfama in Lisbon, the green paradise of Azores, and the emerald waters of Algarve are just some of the many wonderful destinations you will discover in Portugal.
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Spain was the World Cup Champion in 2010, when the tournament was hosted by South Africa. Perhaps one of the greatest players in Spanish football in recent years is Iker Casillas, a celebrated goalkeeper and the captain of the Spanish national team. He was instrumental in the World Cup win and won for himself a Golden Glove. There are several other outstanding Spanish football players, particularly in the current national squad, such as Javi Martínez, Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fàbregas, David Silva and Fernando Torres.
Spain is an amazing tourist destination, with plenty to suit different tastes. Barcelona has fine sandy beaches and historical buildings. Madrid has top-of-the-line art museums. Watch and learn flamenco dancing, head off to Seville. Exciting nightlife and a thriving arts scene await you in Valencia. Visit Spain in the spring or during autumn when the temperature is mild and the sun is gentle on your skin. But do not forget to try out the Spanish seafood paella, the various tapas, Tortilla Española, and gazpacho.
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Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 when it was the host country and in 1986. It is one of the most successful football countries and had won in various football tournaments. Over the course of World Cup history, several Argentine national players have made a name for themselves, such as Hernan Jorge Crespo, Lionel Messi, Gabriel Omar Batistuta, Mario Alberto Kempes, and Diego Armando Maradona.
Argentina is a country that has a variety of climate, from temperate to tropical to sub-
polar. Whichever region in Argentina you wish to visit, the best months to tour the country are from January to March and from November to December.
Argentina has such diverse destinations, it is difficult to decide where to go. But some of the places you should not miss include the Iguazú waterfalls, the beach scene in Mar del Plata, the colonial buildings in Cordoba, the city of Bariloche, which resembles an idyllic village in Switzerland, and Ushuaia. If you need to perfect your tango routine, the best place to do that is in Buenos Aires.
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Germany has won the World Cup three times, in 1954, 1974 (host country) and in 1990. Germany is another country that excels in football and through the years had produced several top players, such as Manuel Neuer, Jens Lehmann, Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Philipp Lahm. From the new generation of players, fast rising stars include Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle.
Germany is the country where Oktoberfest originated. Germany has plenty of charming scenery, with several castles, plenty of historic sites, thriving arts and music scenes, and cuisine that goes beyond sausages and beer. Germany is a country that you can visit anytime of the year, except maybe in December when a multitude of international visitors come to the Christmas markets in Berlin, Nuremberg, Dresden, Munich, and Cologne.