Less than a month until the FIFA World Cup!

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The final countdown has begun: there's less than a month to go until Brazil plays host to the 20th FIFA World Cup! June 12 to July 13 will see the nation host the world's biggest single-event sporting competition for the first time since 1950.

It's been a while coming: the last time a South American nation hosted the World Cup was in 1978 in Argentina. And South America has only hosted 4 World Cups so far (coincidentally, a South American nation won each time the event was hosted there: this bodes well for Brazil, who has won 5 tournaments so far - the most of any nation - and is the only country to have competed in every World Cup.)

Of the 32 teams that have qualified for the 2014 World Cup, 4 are from Asia and Australasia, 4 are from North and Central America, 5 are from Africa, 6 are from South America and 13 are from Europe.

Brazil has expended considerable effort, time and money preparing to host in 2014. The matches are spread out over the entire country, with 12 cities offering renovated or brand new soccer stadiums.

While North Americans are a bit of a subdued bunch when it comes to soccer, the rest of the world demonstrates a passion that nears frenzy for this sport. Organizers estimate approximately 600,000 people will be flying to Brazil for the competition, and 3 million Brazilians will be flying internally from match to match. For those that weren't able to secure tickets, FIFA will be holding "Fan Fests" in each city; this means places like Rio's Copacabana will be teaming with excited fans throughout June and July. FIFA estimates about 700 million people will watch the final game on TV, which is broadcast to 204 countries!

Our Rio de Janeiro guide Carlos reminds us that the finals take place at MaracanĂ£ Stadium (in Rio) where those in attendance will get a preview of the main venue for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Are you one of the lucky ones boarding a plane to Brazil next month? Our guides in Rio, Sao Paulo, Manaus, Salvador, Curitiba and Natal are all ready to welcome travelers eager to experience the FIFA excitement! As Fernando, our guide in Sao Paulo, puts it: "Spending time with a local guide here will teach you why soccer is considered a religion in Brazil, not just a sport."
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