World Cup kicks off amid backdrop of protests

10370787_10152152092347869_23133306_nAS THE EYES of the footballing world rest on Brazil for the biggest sporting event of the footballing year. The FIFA World Cup returns to South America for the first time since 1950 and the hopes of 32 nations will be resting on their team’s performances on the pitch.

England will look to improve on a second round exit in 2010 at the hands of Germany. The Three Lions have been handed a tough group consisting of European stalwarts Italy and an exciting Uruguay side led by Luis Suarez. Costa Rica are the fourth team in the group.

Manager Roy Hodgson named his 23-man squad on the 12th of May. Everton midfielder Ross Barkley made the cut, as did Southampton player Adam Lallana. Former England powerhouse Ashley Cole has been left out of a youthful group as Hodgson looks to the future by selecting Luke Shaw.

The hosts Brazil will be under a huge amount of pressure from their home fans and enter the tournament as favourites. They will look to English based players such as David Luiz, Oscar, Willian and Paulinho to deliver a sixth World Cup title to the Maracana.

Other pre-tournament favourites consist of the ever-present Germans who are always formidable opponents at major tournaments. Portugal will look to the world class Cristiano Ronaldo as they attempt to bid for the title and France remain strong contenders having been handed a relatively easy group.

The tournament build up has been blighted by reports of unfinished stadiums and the deaths of workers on the stadia. Muhammad Ali Maciel Afonso died from electrocution on the 8th May whilst working on the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, one of the host cities for the tournament.

Eight workers have now died whilst working on the World Cup stadia, and the local organisers face accusations of cutting corners and ignoring safety issues in a bid to get the stadia ready in time.

The Confederations Cup, a warm-up for the World Cup, held in Brazil in 2013 was hit by protests over the amount of public money being used to host the tournament in a country in which 16 million people live in extreme poverty.

The organisers will hope that once the tournament is underway it is football that the host nation will be judged on. The World Cup kicked off on the 12th of June.