• Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All set for the opener

Hosts meet Croatia at Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo

Sport Desk
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the two-day 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica in Sao Paulo on Tuesday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the two-day 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica in Sao Paulo on Tuesday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

As the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo with the hosts and five-time champions Brazil taking on Croatia at 2:00am (Bangladesh Time) Friday, the world hopes that the spectacle on the field will outshine the chaos that has plagued the build-up to the biggest sporting event in the world.
Not a moment too soon, subway workers in Rio de Janeiro called off a strike threat, while earlier on Monday subway workers in Sao Paulo decided to suspend a five-day strike that threatened to cause traffic chaos during the Brazil-Croatia opening game.
The celebration will begin, though, even before the kick-off, at around 12 midnight (Bangladesh Time) as top celebrities will perform before the sold-out audience at the Corinthians Arena. The organisers were given a timely boost by the news that American pop star Jennifer Lopez will be performing at the opening ceremony, two days after FIFA had announced "production issues" would prevent her from travelling to Brazil.
Lopez, who recorded the official World Cup song, "We Are One," with rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte, will perform it with them and Brazilian drumming collective Olodum as originally planned at Thursday's kick-off, FIFA said.
"FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee are delighted to announce that we will have the full line-up of stars," it said in a statement.

"The performance by Pitbull, Claudia Leitte, Jennifer Lopez and Olodum will be the climax of the ceremony."
More than 60,000 people will be in Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena to watch the ceremony and opening match between Brazil and Croatia. Around a billion people are expected to tune in on TV worldwide.
The opening ceremony and the opening match will be brought home live to the people of Bangladesh by the state-owned channel BTV and satellite channels Maasranga TV and Gazi TV.
That performance of the pop stars will, of course, be followed by stars of Brazil and Croatia when the two sides face off to kick off the 20th FIFA World Cup. The Brazil team are desperate to make a powerful statement of intent in the opener as they seek to relieve the suffocating pressure.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has the luxury of being able to field the same team that destroyed world champions Spain 3-0 in the final of last year's Confederations Cup, with Barcelona star Neymar the focal point of a powerful and settled line-up.
The five-time champions are expected to qualify from their group without too much trouble but Barcelona defender Dani Alves admitted there was anxiety ahead of the Sao Paulo opener, as they seek to ease the jitters.
"I have always said that if you don't feel anxiety it is not worth being a professional athlete. The opening game is difficult, important," said Alves.
"The three points count but so does the idea of sending out a message to our rivals. The most important game at the World Cup, for everyone, is the opening game."
He added: "We will only know on Thursday if everything is OK. We are very confident and we want this moment to come. We want to enjoy the World Cup. We are going to try to give a good image."
A win for the hosts in the opening game will undoubtedly light up the tournament, which is already devoid of some of the stars of the modern game -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale due to the failure of their respective countries to qualify while the likes of Franck Ribery, Radamel Falcao and Riccardo Montolivo, among others, due to injuries. But thankfully there are plenty of stars left in the 32-team rosters who will be catching the imagination of the people of the world over the course of the next 32 days. And with the goalline technology in place for the first time -- one of five new technologies to be introduced this time -- there will hopefully be lesser issues to debate than any previous edition.

Published: 12:01 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

Last modified: 9:46 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

TAGS: Sao Paulo 2014 FIFA World Cup five-time champions Brazil Rio de Janeiro

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