The interminable wait is over. The biggest sporting extravaganza The FIFA World Cup football has been kicked off. For the next one month, till a proud captain holds aloft the football's Holy Grail in Berlin on July 9, the world will speak in only one language the language of the Beautiful Game.
Suffice to say, the world will be under the grip of a month-long football fever. From the war-torn Iraq to the quake-hit Indonesia, the people will forget their miseries and will be cheering their heroes.
In India, for the next one month, our cricket superstars will be reduced to mere mortals. The Beckhams, the Zidanes, the Ronaldinhos and the Henrys have already replaced our pin-up heroes and now they stare at us from every available billboard in the city.
For any footballer, the World Cup, for sure, is his biggest stage. Dreams are bound to be the same for a superstar like Beckham or an unknown player from Togo. Every footballer yearns to play for his country in the showpiece event and dreams of kissing the prestigious trophy. A few have been fortunate while others have their dreams shattered.
The FIFA World Cup in Germany promises to be as exciting as the previous editions. It will have its share of upsets and controversies. For the first time in 36 years, the honour of playing the opening match has been bestowed on the host nation.
If one is to look into the history of the World Cup, the maximum upsets have occurred in the opening matches. Cameroon upsetting holder Argentina in 1990 World Cup and Senegal waylaying France in the last World Cup are still fresh in the minds of football aficionados.
Form and history point to Brazil, which this time finds itself drawn alongside Croatia, Australia and Japan in Group F in the first round. But to discount the pedigree of two-time champions Germany, Argentina, England and France will be foolish. The matches in the group of death, `C', featuring Argentina, Netherlands, Serbia & Montenegro and Ivory Cost will be most keenly watched in the World Cup. If Argentina qualifies for the second stage, the football fans will be treated to a mouth-watering quarterfinal clash between Argentina and England.
Thirty-two teams, divided into eight groups, will figure in the preliminary stage. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the knock-out second round to be played from June 24. The quarterfinals are to be held on June 30 and 31 and the semifinals on July 4 and 5. The matches will be held in 12 stadia around Germany with Olympic Stadium, Berlin, holding the grand finale on July 9.