FOOTBALL FEVER: Sales clerks, from left, Kadisha Fraser, Onika Bishop, Nissi Champion and Collette Sylvester play with an authentic Adidas Brazuca ball at Francis Fashion yesterday on Queen Street, Port of Spain. The ball is the official match ball for the FIFA 2014 Brazil World Cup which kicks off today at Arena Corinthians, São Paulo between host country Brazil and Croatia. The game can be viewed live exclusively on TV6 from 4 p.m. –Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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OLE OLA!

World Cup football begins in Brazil today

By Mark Pouchet

Ole Ola!
We are one with the rest of the world today as World Cup football kicks off in Braz­il.
Three local football personalities expect a high-quality, exciting and fantastic 2014 World Cup in Brazil when the action kicks off in the first game today.
Against the backdrop of country-wide protests leading up to and threatening to overshadow the coveted quadrennial football tournament; and cost overruns and missed deadlines on the delivery of new stadia, the host team Brazil opens their campaign today against Croatia from 4 p.m. in Sao Paulo.
All matches are being televised on CCN TV6.
DirecTV Connection owner David John-Williams, Veteran Footballers Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago vice-president Selby Browne and former Trinidad and Tobago national senior team player Sedley Joseph all think the events off the field will give way to an explosive, competitive display of football prowess on it.
“Brazil has produced so many world-class players and the people there are very passionate. For me it’s something that is going to be very exciting to see how the atmosphere will be there in Brazil, especially if they manage to win at home,” John-Williams said, adding Trinidad and Tobago nationals in the majority adore the Brazilian flare and style of football and will be following with keen interest.
Joseph, the captain of the T&T senior men’s team when they beat Argentina for bronze in the 1967 Pan Am Games, supports the very organised and disciplined Germany team.
“Well I am always excited when there is top class football being played and this World Cup should be no different... but I expect as well Brazil will be playing well at home and Argentina with (Lionel) Messi to be in the mix,” said Joseph.
If the outstanding footballers play up to scratch, this World Cup will be high quality, he added.
Browne feels the quality of football will be quite high as several outstanding players from the world’s professional leagues in throughout Europe and South America will make the top-drawer teams more or less evenly matched.
“But Brazil is hard pressed to win, and I fully support Brazil. They would be hard pressed because Neymar will be targeted and the same also applies to Messi on the Argentina team and Ronaldo in Portugal,” Browne said.
Browne believes the T&T public will be glued to their television sets for the World Cup because the football spectators in T&T and countries around the world have become familiar with the top-class players through their television screens.
Joseph said the security measures orga­nised by the Brazilian government will buffer the players from the planned protests.
“I don’t expect that it will have an effect on players on the field because they will be concentrating on the task at hand,” he said.
John-Williams said he would like to see a Brazil-Argentina final with Brazil winning the World Cup at home.
However, he said he hoped the local coaches take a leaf out of the good relationship between 1994 World Cup-winning coach Carlos Perreira (current assistant coach) and Phillip Scholari (current head coach), Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning coach.
“It is something very instructive for our nation to look at, to see how people put aside egos and get together for the cause. It is going to be a fantastic World Cup,” John-Williams concluded.
Browne said the crowd support and knowledge of the game by the Brazilian crowd would also play a significant factor in terms of urging on their team players to a high standard of play and “of course I have great expectations for Mario Balatelli if he delivers as he is capable of doing”.
Browne said he expected the World Cup to be contested between the Big Four—Braz­il, Germany, Spain and Italy.
“Despite all the preparation concerns and trials and protests, I expect a fantastic World Cup,” Browne concluded.
• See Pages 11, 73 & 80
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