June 13, 2014

Live from the World Cup: Opening Day

Augusto Lima, a rising junior and goalie for the Crusader men's soccer team, calls Brazil home and this summer, Brazil is the host country for the 2014 World Cup. Lima will be blogging throughout the duration of the World Cup with his first-hand insight into the atmosphere, game action and more surrounding the global event.

Today [June 12] marks the beginning of the World Cup. In the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil plays Croatia in the first match of the tournament. It took me a while to realize the World Cup was really going to happen here. It first hit me last week when I got in the stadium to watch Brazil and Serbia in the last friendly match before the real thing. Brazilians are not always the most patriotic people but in World Cup times everything suddenly changes and Brazilian flags of all sizes and models can be spotted anywhere: in the cars, in the stores and in buildings.

This year, though, it felt like people took a lot longer to start bringing out this patriotism. I think all the political tension that was involved in the preparation period for the World Cup turned a lot of people off. About a year ago, the first popular protest erupted. It was peaceful at first and it had the intent to demonstrate the people's dissatisfaction with all the money being used in the construction of monumental FIFA-standards stadiums while the country's education, health system and other areas were still lacking. Now, the more recent protests and strikes have been due to people who want to take advantage of the situation of all the media coverage and the government's fear of any problems during the World Cup. Yesterday I did notice the streets with more flags and I think the people are giving in; a true Brazilian will never resist to the excitement of a World Cup!

On the soccer side of things, the Nigerian and Portuguese national teams are staying in my city. The two professional soccer clubs from here had their fields, gyms, locker rooms and media rooms upgraded to the required FIFA standards in order to host participating squads in a World Cup. The two teams also have the best hotels in the city available for them.

This morning I was able to go watch to Portugal's practice which was open to the public. There were about 4,000 people; the tickets were free (all were gone within an hour of opening of the distribution). Tomorrow I will go watch the Nigerians practice.

In my opinion, the favorite teams to win the title are Spain, Argentina and Brazil. Spain is the defending champion and most of the team is still the same. Argentina has a very good attack and the geographical proximity should help them with some extra support; Brazilians for sure will cheer against the historical rivals, though! Lastly, I think Brazil has the best defense in the world, a good coach, some players that can make a difference and home field advantage, which should make a huge impact like it did in the Confederations Cup when Brazil came out champions.