Brazil here we come. It sounds like such a cliché, but there is no better way to sum up my excitement as I am boarding the plane to South America for the football World Cup.

I have covered several World Cups, Olympics and other major sporting events, but the prospect of experiencing the greatest show on the planet in the sentimental home of football, was too much to resist.

New Zealanders think rugby is our national religion, but our passion and emotional connection with the All Blacks pales into insignificance with how Brazilians experience the games of their Selecao, or The Squad.

It is not just coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, but also politicians and local police chiefs who will worry whether the team can deliver the country's sixth World Cup.

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At home, with arguably the most talented squad at the tournament there can be no excuses.

Furthermore, Brazilians demand their team extinguish the shame and the pain of the 1950 World Cup when the country hosted the tournament, but was stunned by Uruguay in the decisive match.

The mammoth Maracana stadium in Rio will again play host to the final, but the new-look arena no longer holds 200,000 fans, but a modest 80,000 seats. Nonetheless, the opportunity to witness a World Cup match, and hopefully the final, at this sacred football ground, is the stuff of dreams for a football fanatic like myself.

The formbook says Brazil will be hosting Germany or Spain in the final, but the football World Cup is a different cup of tea from for example the Rugby World Cup, as all 32 teams deserve respect.

Who can forget how the modest boys from New Zealand astonished the footballing world four years ago, so not one single game can be considered a foregone conclusion.

If Brazil wins group A, as expected, it will play the runner-up of group B, which could be either Spain, the Netherlands or Chile, the form team in South America. That second-round match may prove a decisive chapter in the narrative of this World Cup.

First though Brazil has to get past the hype and the Croatian team in the opening match in Sao Paulo on Friday morning (NZ time).

Ever since an historical spat with a previous national coach over one of their local players some 40 years ago, fans in Sao Paulo are known to be skeptical of their team. But then again, if the current subway strike hasn't been sorted, most of them won't even make it to the Arena Sao Paulo, a stadium which itself is barely finished.

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The strike is yet another chapter in string of riots, protests, budget-blowouts and other scandals that have hampered this World Cup.

Once the ball starts rolling though, most locals expect the nation to close ranks behind the boys in the famous yellow shirts.

Brazil is a powder keg waiting to explode, either in a riot or the biggest samba celebration ever seen.

Coen Lammers will be covering the 2014 FIFA World Cup for nzherald.co.nz
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