Mega sporting event kicks off

Mega sporting event kicks off

Host Brazil takes on Croatia in FIFA World Cup opener

Mega sporting event kicks off

The world’s most popular sporting event kicks off late on Thursday night with host Brazil taking on Croatia at Sao Paulo. 

Brazil, the traditional power house of soccer and five-time winner of the once-in-four-year event, is considered to be one of the favourites in this edition of the world’s most ‘beautiful game’. The game returns to this football crazy country after a gap of 64 years.

But the tournament is not without its share of controversy. What was to be a soccer celebration is in danger of being hijacked by off-field issues as a growing furore surrounding FIFA over alleged vote-buying for the 2022 World Cup stews and anger over domestic political corruption broils throughout Brazil.

The gloom is a far cry from what was envisioned when Brazil was selected as host nation in 2007. But if any country can perform a feat of spiritual alchemy using football as its tool, Brazil can. 

And for all the FIFA and protest dramas, billions of people around the world will tune in as eagerly as ever once the action begins.

The home of what Pele termed “the beautiful game” is likely to respond like few others could, if its yellow-shirted heroes can carry all before them. 

A joyous festival of football would indeed be testament to the power of soccer if the sport shrugs off the unseemly smog enveloping the lead-up to this tournament. Brazil will be confident of providing the perfect fillip when they open the World Cup with a Group A clash against an equally brilliant Croatia in Sao Paulo.

The hosts are favourites to clinch a record-extending sixth World Cup crown come the July 13 final at Rio’s Maracana stadium. Argentina’s Lionel Messi, considered to be the world’s best footballer, has never hit the heights at a world cup.

Unless he does, as the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona have before him, there would always be a hint of a question mark over a career in which in every other way he has touched the stars. 

The formidable Germans have their minds set on a slice of history for themselves. No non-South American team has triumphed in these parts, but Joachim Loew’s squad have observers lining up to say that spell is ready to be broken.