It’s less than a week away from the month-long extravaganza celebrated around the world — the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Joshua Robinson, a London-based sports editor for the Wall Street Journal Europe, joined “CBS This Morning: Saturday” to discuss what to expect from this year’s games.
While soccer (or football as its known elsewhere around the world) is not as popular in America, in Europe and Latin America, the sport is huge.
“Large swaths of the English-speaking and non-English speaking world grinds to a total halt over the next two weeks,” said Robinson, “especially at the beginning of the tournament where you’ve got 48 games in 15 days. We’re talking [like] the first weekend of NCAA Tournament for two straight weeks.”
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European TV viewers are lucking out. “In Europe, the timing of the World cup is perfect,” said Robinson, with games at 5 at night, 7 at night, even 11 p.m. and midnight. “A lot of pubs in England had to request special permission to stay open later past 12:30 a.m., so they could show the games, have people partying, watching the games and rooting for England.”
However, in Brazil, which has so far spent about $14 billion to host the games, it’s not all fun and games. The World Cup has generated quite an amount of controversy.
“You’ve got a country that’s very divided about hosting this tournament,” said Robinson. ” The approval rating for the tournament keeps dropping.”
He says that both FIFA (the international governing body for soccer) and Brazil “badly overreached” when planning for this year’s tournament. “You only need eight venues to host the World Cup, but Brazil — at the time it won the bid, [its] economy was doing well — said, ‘Look, ‘we’re a huge country. We’re the home of soccer. We’re going to build 12 stadiums.’ What you’ve got now is up to three that aren’t fully ready for the tournament.”
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But the problems don’t just end with the unfinished venues.
“There is still major gaps in social programs and things like that in Brazil,” said Robinson. “And especially if Brazil goes out early, I think we’ll see a lot of problems of, ‘Hey, we put up with all of this for seven years for the rest of the world to come party?'”
In terms of the line-up, several teams could make history, such as Spain, which won the World Cup 2010 and could be on tap to win it all again this year.
“It would be historic,” said Robinson. “The last country to repeat was Brazil in 1962. We haven’t seen this in half a century. But they are far and away the best technical team out there.
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“But they have huge competition from other European teams, especially Germany. Plus we’ve never had a European Team win a World Cup in South America in the four times that it’s happened.”
As for the U.S. team, it appears to be an uphill battle in the bracket called the “Group of Death” — which includes 2nd-ranked Germany, 5th-ranked Portugal, and Ghana.
In 2006 and 2010, Ghana knocked out the U.S.