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The 2014 FIFA World Cup gets underway Thursday in Brazil. The month-long tournament will crown a champion in men's football—or soccer as it's stubbornly called in the U.S.
Some 32 countries are participating, including a U.S. contingent. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 cities across Brazil in new or refurbished stadiums. It's the second time Brazil is playing host, having done so in 1950.
Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to show up, traveling from all over, hoping to see their country win. Spain is the defending champion, having won it all in 2010.
But the games are surrounded in controversy. The estimated cost for hosting the games is said to be more than $11 billion—making it the most expensive World Cup since the competition began 84 years ago.
That has led to charges of corruption and accusations of over spending by the Brazilian government, instead of improving the local infrastructure and housing conditions.
Many game venues are reportedly still under construction and some that are finished are said to be in poor condition.
That could be a reason for Brazil's team to win it all, at least for the short term. The World Cup's winning nation often gets an economic boost, at least in the first month after the games, as you can see in the graphic below.
But long term, the Cup has a downside, with the victor's economy underperforming the world's economy by 4 percent.
(Graphics provided by Wallet Hub)
Getting to the games won't be cheap. The price range for economy flights from major U.S. cities to Rio de Janeiro range between $1,200 to $4,200.The World Cup is creating its share of inflation. Getting to Brazil will cost about 40 percent more compared with last year.
Ticket prices have a wide range—from as low as $10 for the cheapest match, to around $50,000 for a VIP package to the final game. As of April 1, around 1.6 million tickets were sold, of which 155,000 went to U.S. buyers, the second-largest group to buy tickets behind the locals.
Speaking of the U.S., the 23-man American team is coached by German-born Jurkgen Klinsman. And accordingly, five of the seven foreign-born members of the team are German American. The U.S. is ranked 14 out of the 32 teams heading into the games.
However the chances of the U.S. wining it all only stand at 0.5 percent. The U.S. coach apparently agrees, saying publicly he doesn't think his team can win the Cup. OUCH!
As mentioned, World Cup matches will be held in 12 cities in Brazil. That's a FIFA record.
And as we said, the money involved was a lot. It cost $900 million to build the Estadio Nacional arena in Brasilia—that's triple the original estimate, making it the second most expensive football stadium in the world. The first is England's Wembley Stadium at $1.25 billion.
The irony may be that there's no local football team in Brasilia to use the stadium after the games are over.
Finally, here's a look at some history surrounding the World Cup. Only eight countries have won the Cup over the 20 times it's been held. Brazil has won a record five titles.
Also note in the graphic below, the number of red cards given out in World Cup play.
Red cards are shown to players by referees when they've committed some sort of serious infraction against another player and must immediately leave the field. The player has to go directly to the locker room, he can't even sit on the bench.
The infractions may be kicking, hitting, tripping or any kind of activity that endangers a player. It's up to the referee to decide if the infraction warrants the red card.
Of course, this is always a point of contention from fans when red cards go to their players and not the other team.
Those yellow cards are not as serious. They are warnings for rough play, but there are no immediate ejections from them. However, get five of them in a match, and a player is gone.