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Today the World Cup Brazil 2014 starts. All the sweepstake players have their teams and are hopefully displaying them proudly on their monitors. Someone in our office (mentioning no names!!) has attached a photo of Fabio Cannavaro’s hands lifting the World Cup for Italy to his Dutch flag!

Over the next seven days, all 32 teams will play their first matches of the group phase. Here’s the list from today to next Tuesday:

Thursday 12th June
Brazil v Croatia
Friday 13th June
Mexico v Cameroon
Spain v Netherlands
Chile v Australia
Saturday 14th June
Colombia v Greece
Uruguay v Costa Rica
England v Italy
Sunday 15th June
Ivory Coast v Japan
Switzerland v Ecuador
France v Honduras
Argentina v Bosnia-Herze
Monday 16th June
Iran v Nigeria
Germany v Portugal
Ghana v USA
Tuesday 17th June
Brazil v Mexico
Belgium v Algeria
Russia v South Korea

The most interesting clashes look like being Spain vs Netherlands on Friday 13 June; England vs Italy late on Saturday in the Amazon jungle; and Germany vs Portugal on Monday 16 June.
Things tend to get pretty ugly when Spain and Netherlands mix. The game on Friday is a replay of the Final four years ago which was a very fractious game, albeit with a positive outcome. Even outside of football the results of mixing Spanish and Dutch can get ugly – look at this clip of Dutch singer George Baker singing ‘Una Paloma Blanca’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQK9k42ongU&feature=youtu.be&t=35s) – music, clothes, hair, teeth and lip synching – I can’t imagine anything more ugly! Let’s hope for something more visually appealing on Friday.
Italy and England have met on several occasions before with Italy usually coming out on top. There have been reports in the English media about the poor state of the pitch in the stadium, which means that excuses for England’s defeat are already being made before they’ve begun. Manaus has to be one of the oddest places a World Cup match has been played – it is in the middle of the Amazon rain forest and is a very long way from any other cities. If anyone there wants a distraction from the football there is a spectacular Opera House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Theatre). It might be the best place to see any drama as I predict a dull match as the heat and humidity saps energy from the players during the match.
That’s it for now – game on!

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