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World Cup Host CitiesEdit

Rio de Janeiro

One of the most desirable destinations in the world, Rio is the home of Brazil’s carnival spirit, as well as its most iconic football venue - the Maracana. Having hosted the World Cup final in 1950, the home of fierce rivals Fluminense and Flamengo will do the honours once more for the 2014 edition and will go on to be the focal point of Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games in the city.

With far more than sport to offer, Rio’s wealth of attractions include Sugarloaf Mountain in Guanabara Bay and its popular cable car, while the statue of Christ the Redeemer also looks down on the city - the 30-metre-tall monument was named in the New7Wonders of the World list in July 2007.

Between matches, the city’s legendary beaches will attract many visitors as temperatures hit roughly 25 degrees Celsius. Copacabana, 4km long and located in the south of the city, is typically a party destination and was formally the regular host of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. A short walk through Parque Garota leads you to Ipanema, seen as one of the inspirations for Rio’s legendary Bossa Nova music scene.

Brasilia
Built in the 1950s to replace Rio as Brazil’s federal capital, Brasilia is the country’s administrative hub and will play host to seven matches at the World Cup, including the third-place play-off.

Though not enriched with quite the level of history and tradition of some of the other venues at this year’s showpiece, the striking National Congress building - which sits in the Square of Three Powers - Brasilia Cathedral and a monument to former president and the city’s founding father Juscelino Kubitschek will still delight appreciators of fine architecture.

Brasilia has not hosted top-flight football since the early 2000s, while the biggest club in the state are Brasiliense, who suffered relegation from the third tier last season and currently compete in Serie D. The local area does have some footballing pedigree, however, with 2002 World Cup winners Lucio and Kaka both born nearby.

The action at this year’s World Cup will be hosted at the new Estadio Nacional - a near-70,000-seater stadium that is now one of the biggest venues in the country.

Brasilia is the only city in the world constructed in the 20th Century to have been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Sao Paulo

Brazil's biggest city - and also one of the most populous in the world - Sao Paulo is the home of one of the domestic league's fiercest rivalries, with Corinthians and Palmeiras regularly competing in the Paulista Derby - and it is the former's brand-new Arena de Sao Paulo that will host games at the World Cup, including the opening fixture between Brazil and Croatia as well as mouth-watering clashes between Group D rivals Uruguay and England, Netherlands versus Chile in Group B and one of the semi-finals. 

The city's two big sides are far from the only ones in the local area. Sao Paulo enjoy a rivalry with each and have won six national titles, three Copa Libertadores crowns and the FIFA Club World Cup, while Portuguesa topped Serie B last season.

In fact, it was Sao Paulo where football first came to Brazil. The city was the home of Charles Miller, the Briton who first brought the game to the country in 1894 and paved the way for the national pastime to take root.

Sao Paulo's football museum is a must-see attraction for any visiting sports fan, while the Pinacoteca art gallery and Ibirapuera Park are perfect spots to get away from the tournament and the bustling city surrounds.

Fortaleza

The capital of the north-eastern state of Ceara, Fortaleza - which translates as 'fortress' - was built in the 1600s before being officially founded as a village a century later when natives expelled Dutch settlers from the region.

The battling spirit has since given way to a tropical city that is known for forro music and its beaches.

Ceara's home stadium, the Estadio Castelao, was renovated ahead of last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, hosting three games, including Spain's penalty shootout victory over Italy in the semi-finals.

The near-65,000 capacity arena will play host to six World Cup games, including a repeat of one of its fixtures from the Confederations Cup - Brazil versus Mexico.

If visitors find enough spare time between matches, it may be well worth visiting the Futuro and Cumbuco beaches or taking a drive across the coast to the idyllic fishing village of Jericoacoara - a stunning place to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of the world's biggest football tournament.

Belo Horizonte

The south-eastern city - pronounced Be-lo Hori-zonch - is the birthplace of Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff and the home of Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro, the fierce city rivals who divide loyalties in the local area.

Both sides enjoyed 2013, with Cruzeiro sealing the top-flight title, while 2012 domestic champions Atletico transferred their success to the continental stage, lifting the Copa Libertadores title with a final victory over Paraguay's Olimpia.

The positive atmosphere that flows through the city may well make Belo Horizonte extra welcoming for those travelling to see the football during the World Cup, though fierce rivals Argentina can still expect a frosty reception when they visit for their Group F clash with Iran.

Known as a particularly picturesque region, the area boasts plenty of natural beauty for those looking to take in some sights away from the pitch with Brumadinho especially worth a visit.

For those wanting to learn more about the local culture, tours of the Vale Verde Cachaca factory may be of interest. Cachaca is a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane and is likely to be central to the parties held in celebration across the country should the host nation manage to lift the famous trophy.

Porto Alegre

Those chasing the sun as well as the football on offer at the World Cup may not want to visit Porto Alegre, where the temperatures could dip into mere single figures in the Brazilian winter - when the tournament will be hosted.

However, that should not put too many off from visiting the birthplace of one of Brazil's greatest modern footballers, Ronaldinho.

The playmaker started his career at Gremio, who compete for local bragging rights with Internacional on a yearly basis.

The latter's Estadio Beira-Rio will host four group games, as well as a fixture in the second phase - likely to feature either Portugal or Germany.

The Parque do Caracol, a two-hour drive away in nearby Canela, is a must-visit for nature lovers with several indigenous species to marvel over as well as the 131-metre Cascata do Caracol waterfall.

Salvador
Known as one of the biggest party cities in Brazil, Salvador will have the honour of hosting a rematch of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final when Spain and Netherlands take on each other in Group B on June 13.

The Arena Fonte Nova's tenants, Bahia, have been perennial survivors in the Brazilian top flight since their return in 2011, though they are the most successful side in the Baiano state championship.

Salvador has another top-flight club in the shape of Vitoria and both are among the best-supported sides in the league, so the city will no doubt be ready to host the festival of football when it comes to town.

Those looking for something other than the football can soak in the historic centre of Salvador, one of the 10 locations in Brazil to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes many 17th Century buildings to give a flavour of Brazil from a by-gone era.

Recife

A port city that is one of the most developed in Brazil, Recife is located at the point where the Beberibe River meets the Capibaribe River to form the Atlantic Ocean - earning the city the moniker of 'the Brazilian Venice'.

Recife hosted arguably the most exciting game of the Confederations Cup as Brazil warmed up in style for this year's showpiece - Italy's thrilling 4-3 win over Japan in Group A.

Both sides will return for the World Cup, much to the delight of the locals, when they tackle Costa Rica and Ivory Coast respectively in the initial phase.

The city's Arena Pernambuco stands on the site of the Ilha do Retiro stadium, a host for the 1950 edition of the showpiece, and has sparked an economic development that is set to create around 5,000 homes for local people.

The birthplace of footballing legends Vava, Juninho Pernambucano and Rivaldo, Recife is likely to be represented in Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for this year's tournament by Inter playmaker Hernanes.

Cuiaba

Cuiaba can expect to be at the heart of the World Cup in every way this year.

The city - which is the capital of the state of Mato Grosso - is located in the exact centre of South America, equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and is known as the ‘Green City’ due to the lush vegetation that intertwines with the sprawling urban scenery.

The area is also home to one of the world’s largest floodplains, featuring a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as more exotic creatures such as alligators and jaguars, with the Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park sure to attract plenty of visitors during the tournament.

The 42,968-capacity Arena Pantanal - built on the site where the Estadio Jose Fragelli used to be - will host four group games at this year’s showpiece before being reduced in size after the tournament, a feat made possible by its adaptable design and structure.

Cuiaba is one of the smallest host cities for the World Cup, though it will still provide visitors with the perfect chance to learn about Brazil’s rich history at the Rondon Museum, which chronicles the lives of the nation’s indigenous people.

Manaus

Located in the Amazon rainforest, Manaus is the most remote of all the tournament's host cities - it would take more than a day to drive to the nearest co-venue, Cuiaba, although its unusual location makes it perhaps the most fascinating.

Travelling fans will face an arduous journey with few international flights serving the local airport, while England manager Roy Hodgson sailed down the Amazon River to reach the city on a pre-tournament trip to check out the surroundings.

Hodgson's side will open their tournament at the Arena Amazonia against Italy on June 14, with three more group-stage matches in the shape of Cameroon versus Croatia, United States versus Portugal and Honduras versus Switzerland also to be played there.

Nature lovers will be keen to take a boat tour to the confluence of the Negro and Solimoes rivers, known as 'The Meeting of the Waters' and notable for the two bodies, which are coloured differently, flowing for several kilometres side-by-side without mixing.

The tropical climate will provide the teams playing there with plenty to think about, with an annual temperature average of 28 degrees Celsius and air humidity of over 80 per cent.

Given that the tournament takes place in the dry season between June and November, temperatures could even touch above 35 degrees.

Natal

Noted for its rolling sand dunes on Brazil's north-eastern coast, Natal's Estadio das Dunas even recognises them in its name and design, with a fine sweeping roof a nod to the distinctive local features.

Visitors may take interest in the Festa Junina, one of the oldest festivals in the country that features fireworks, traditional costumes and foods commemorating the Christian celebration of the nativity of St John the Baptist.

Other attractions include the coral reefs at Maracajau and of course the Genipabu beach, where the famous dunes can be found.

Natal is known as Cidade do Sol (Sun City) thanks to its tropical climate that provides an annual average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, and roughly 300 sunny days a year

On the pitch, a quartet of group games will be played in the city, including a clash between Italy and Uruguay - two sides with six World Cup titles between them.

Curitiba

A forward-thinking, modern city, Curitiba is renowned for its sustainable living and commitment to recycling, having previously been a hive of industry and agriculture. Local residents can exchange their recyclable items for tokens allowing them to use the public transport systems of the city.

Football is not far behind the locals’ priorities though, with two top sides to support in the shape of Coritiba and Atletico Paranaense, the latter’s rebuilt Arena da Baixada being used for the tournament.

On the occasion of the stadium’s centenary, World Cup holders Spain will pay Curitiba a visit when they take on Australia in Group B on June 23.

A number of parks provide visitors space to relax and unwind away from the on-pitch action, while the eye-catching Museu Oscar Niemeyer, named after the man behind the city’s architectural revolution in the 1950s, includes a number of exhibitions and works of art.