Brazil: Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest nation in the world. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the East and has a border with every country in South America except for Ecuador and Chile. The last census revealed a population of 201 million people. Brazil’s official language is Portuguese. It is a founding member of the UN and involved in several international organizations including the Organization of American States. As well as having a long history in soccer, Brazil is best known for its lush rain forest, beautiful beaches, the carnival and its national cocktail the Caipirinha.
Soccer News – Brazil is the host country of the 2014 World Cup, and having won numerous World Cups before, there are high hopes that its team will add another this year. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari says his team is well prepared. Legendary Brazilian soccer stars include Pele and Ronaldo. Need more info, check out the official FIFA World Cup 2014 site: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43924/profile.html
Croatia: Croatia is located at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. After political unrest and war in the late 1990s, Croatia rebuilt and has become a major tourist stop in Europe. Its beautiful Adriatic coast welcomes cruise ships from all over the world and beach lovers are not disappointed. The country’s population is 4.47 million, most of whom are Croats and of Roman Catholic faith. Minorities include Serbs, Hungarians and Gypsies. The official languages are Croatian and Serbian. Croats are extremely proud of their heritage and culture, which is reflected in their staunch nationalism and love for folklore.
Soccer News – Croatia has never won the World Cup, but they did place third in 1998 during their first ever World Cup outing. More info about the team can be found at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43938/profile.html
Mexico: Mexico or the Estados Unidos de Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas. It is bordered by the United States of America to the North and by Guatemala and Belize to the South. The official language is Spanish but there are 67 native languages that originate from pre-Columbian Mexico, when great civilizations such as the Maya and the Aztec populated the territory. With its vast natural resources and a population of over 113 million, Mexico is considered a newly industrialized country and an emerging economic power. Mexico is also known for its strong soccer league, its telenovelas (night-time soap operas) which are distributed worldwide and have die-hard fans even in Russia, culinary delights such as Tacos and Burritos, the legendary Margarita and its gorgeous resorts along the Gulf of Mexico.
Soccer News – Qualifying this time was not easy for Mexico, a major surprise for a team that always plays exceedingly well. Chicharito is one of their main players this time around. Please check this link for more details about their 2014 World Cup team: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43911/profile.html
Cameroon: This small African nation with a population of 22.5 million is located in the West of the Central African region on the Atlantic Ocean and shares a border with Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. With its beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas, this country features a geographic and natural diversity that have earned it the nickname “Africa in miniature.” Its cultural diversity is also notable: there are various ethnic groups including Cameroon Highlanders, Fulani and Equatorial Bantu and a high level of religious freedom. Being a former colony of Great Britain and France, its official languages are English and French but citizens do business in 24 African languages as well.
Soccer News – The Cameroon national soccer team has been one of the most successful in Africa since its strong showing in the 1990 FIFA Word Cup. It won four African Cup of Nations titles and the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games. Samuel Eto is its charismatic team Captain. He played for Chelsea in the English Premier League. For more information about their current team, go to http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43849/profile.html
Spain: España, the Kingdom of Spain, aka the land of bull fighting, flamenco, Pablo Picasso, Rafa Nadal, tapas and paella. Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Its capital is Madrid and it is bordered by France and Andorra to the North and by Portugal to the West. It is one of three countries, including France and Morocco, that have both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, and is thus a popular vacation spot due its mild Mediterranean climate and beautiful beaches. With a population of 47 million, Spain is the fifth largest country in Europe. Spanish is the official language; however, Catalán is spoken in Catalonia, Galician is official in the Northwest, and Basque is proudly used in the Basque Country. But no matter which official language the regions prefer, EVERYONE speaks soccer.
Soccer News – Spain is the current champion having won the last World Cup in South Africa. The team also plays and sometimes wins the UEFA Champion’s League. Will they keep the cup this time around? With coach Vicente del Bosque at the helm and their captain Iker Casillas this may be a tough team to beat. Former star players are Fernando Hierro and Luis Suarez. Further details can be found at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43969/profile.html
Netherlands: aka Holland, is located in northern Europe bordering the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. As its name in Dutch indicates it is a low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, featuring an elaborate system of dikes for protection against flooding. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, but the seat of government is actually located in The Hague, the city that also hosts the International Court of Justice. The Netherlands used to be a vast colonial power with land in the Americas, the West Indies and Africa, but today it is rather small with a population of 16.8 million. In addition to being famous for its windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs, for great artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh and for its liberal social policies, this European country is also known to produce excellent soccer teams.
Soccer News – After finishing second three times in the history of the World Cup, the Oranje are hoping to finally win it this time. Robin van Persie, the young striker who plays for Manchester United, is one of the strongest players on the team. But he is well supported by his team mates who contributed to an easy qualification this time around. For more information, please visit http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43960/profile.html
Chile: The most striking aspect about this South American country is its unusual shape. It occupies a long and narrow strip of land between the Andes mountain range to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Its neighbor to the north is Peru, to the northeast Bolivia, to the east Argentina. Chile stretches all the way down to Antarctica and also claims about 480,000 m2 of its land. Due to this very special location, you can find about every possible climate and geographical feature in Chile, ranging from glaciers to deserts, snow-capped mountain ranges to splendid beaches. Its capital city is Santiago and the official language is Spanish. However, Chile’s 17 million strong population is multi-ethnic with European, Amerindian and African roots and several indigenous languages that are still spoken: Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara and Rapa Nui. After experiencing severe left-right political turmoil in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a military coup and dictatorship, and an economy in shambles, Chile has risen once again. Today, it is one of South America’s most politically stable and prosperous nations with a high level of foreign trade. Copper, fish, fruits, paper and pulp, chemicals, and wine are among its main exports.
Soccer News – Although Chile has qualified for eight World Cups, this team has never won a World Cup. The best result came in 1962 when they hosted the World Cup and came in third. It’s the story of “almost but no cigar.” This year their chances seem more promising with a new coach, an aggressive style and key players such as forwards Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas as well as attacking midfielders Matias Fernandez and Arturo Vidal. More information is available at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43925/profile.html
Australia: aka The Commonwealth of Australia aka The Land Down Under. Australia is not just a country but it is a continent, the world’s largest island and sixth-largest country with approximately 22 million inhabitants. Neighboring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea in the north; the Solomon Islands, Vanatu and New Caledonia; and New Zealand to the south-east. Australia’s size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with tropical rainforests in the north-east, mountain ranges in the south-east, south-west and east, and desert in the center. It is the flattest continent with the oldest and least fertile soils; desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the “Outback” makes up by far the largest portion of land. Before the British settled there in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous people who spoke between 250 and 300 different languages of which only 70 survived. Besides cricket and rugby, popular sports include Australian rules football, horse racing, squash, surfing, motor racing, and – of course – soccer.
Soccer News – Not a team that is often seen at the World Cup like for example Argentina, Italy or Germany they have proven that consistent hard work and a visionary goal pay off. Although the road to Brazil has been bumpy, under the leadership of midfielder Tim Cahill and defender Lucas Neill, the Socceroos are confident that they will make it far this time. Why not? For more information on the Aussie team click here http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43976/profile.html
Columbia: is a country on the northwestern coast of South America. Its neighbors are Panama in the northwest, Venezuela and Brazil in the east, and Ecuador as well as Peru in the south. It also has shorelines along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The name Colombia is derived from the last name of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. It was conceived as a reference to all the New World, but especially to those under the Spanish and Portuguese rule. Colombia is ethnically diverse, and the interaction between descendants of the native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, African slaves, and 20th century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, has produced a rich cultural heritage. Although the Colombian Constitution specifies Castilian Spanish as the official language, there are approximately 68 other languages spoken in the country. Colombia has distinct geographical features ranging from the Andes mountains and active volcanoes to tropical rainforests around the Amazon river and costal areas, which also translates into Colombia being the second most bio diverse country in the world, lagging only after Brazil which is approximately 10 times bigger. Its colorful musical culture has produced some of the biggest Latin American and International music stars, including Shakira and Juanes.
Soccer News – With the exception of Italy 1990, when the golden generation that included Rene Higuita and Carlos Valderrama lost to Cameroon in the Round of 16, Columbia has never gone far in the World Cup. But this year, with the arrival its new coach Jose Nestor Pekerman and with main attacking threats Falcao and James Rodriguez, this may change. For more details please click here http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43926/profile.html
Greece: is not just the land of olives, Spanakopita, Retsina, gorgeous beaches, Demis Roussos and the Olympics, but it is the land of Plato, Socrates and Homer, in other words, the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of Western philosophy and literature, democracy, political science, scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama. It is located in Southern Europe, between Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world (8,498 miles), featuring approximately 1,400 islands of which 227 are inhabited. Being the crossroads between Europe, Western Asia and Africa, Greece is a cultural hub and major tourist destination, tourism making up 15% of its GDP. Classical Greek is still studied by scholars today, albeit not as frequently as in the past, and has been replaced by a more modern version. Greece is a founding member of the United Nations and a member of the European Union since 1981 the population at the last census stood at 10,772,967 people.
Soccer News – Many claim that Greece is just lucky to be at the World Cup. The team’s track record at the event is less than stellar, but they proved their mettle during the qualifiers. For more details, see their profile on the official FIFA website: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43949/profile.html
Côte d’Ivoire: aka the Republic of Ivory Coast is a West African country. It shares a border with Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. An 1843–44 treaty made Ivory Coast a protectorate of France and in 1893 it became a French colony. The country became independent in 1960 but still has very close ties to France. With a population of 22,400,835, the country’s official language is French; however, there are some 60 native dialects, Dioula being the most widely spoken. Along with the trade of ivory and cotton, coffee and cocoa production made Ivory Coast one of the most prosperous West African states in the 1960s and 1970s. Its cuisine is very similar to that of many of its neighboring countries. Cassava and plantains are key ingredients of Ivorian cuisine. A type of corn paste called Aitiu is used to prepare corn balls, and peanuts are widely used in many dishes. Slow-simmered stews such as the famous chicken or fish Yassa are another common food staple.
Soccer News – Despite breezing through the qualifying matches and having some phenomenal individual players, the team has not ever made it past the group stage. But it is perhaps worth mentioning that the draw has never been particularly kind to them… so, will this team be able to coalesce into a team that can take the Cup? To find out more, please click on: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43854/profile.html
Japan or Ri Ben Nippon/Nihon or formally Ri Ben Guo Nippon-koku/Nihon-koku which means State of Japan: The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin.” This nomenclature comes from earlier Japanese missions to Imperial China and refers to Japan’s eastward position relative to China, and that is why Japan is often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun.” Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands located in the Pacific Ocean east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korean, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The Land of the Rising Sun is also a land where modern technology and tradition meet: high-speed trains, SONY, state-of-the-art skyscrapers and deluxe food vending machines go hand-in-hand with the ancient geisha culture, beautiful Zen gardens, martial arts and tea houses with traditional tea services that rival high tea in Britain. The Japanese take both education and sports very seriously. Baseball, ice-skating and soccer are all sports that have produced major international champions.
Soccer News – Japan decided to try the Italian way by hiring as head coach Alberto Zaccheroni right after their impressive run at the last World Cup in South Africa. Lead by their midfielder Keisuke Honda and spearheaded by attackers Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki, their transition proved successful and they have overcome past obstacles. Will they go further than last time? To find out more information, check out their profile on the official FIFA World Cup site at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43819/profile.html
Uruguay: may share its gaucho and tango traditions and its culinary preferences (superb beef and melt-in-the-mouth flans) with its neighbor Argentina, but Uruguayan culture is predominantly European with over 90.7% of its population claiming European roots, mostly from Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Britain. Uruguayan Spanish has been heavily influenced by the large presence of Italian immigrants which represent about 40% of the population. Immigrants used to speak a mixture of Italian and Spanish known as cocoliche and some of those words are still commonly used. Other languages include Portuguese and Portuñol (a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese) which are both spoken in the north near the Brazilian border. Since there are only very few native people, no indigenous languages appear to be spoken anymore. Uruguay is located in the southeastern region of South America and is bordered by Argentina to its west, Brazil to its north and east, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southeast. With a population of only 3.3 million, Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America, but one with a very strong and healthy economy.
Soccer News – Soccer is the most important sport in Uruguay and the national team has won the World Cup twice: the first time in 1930 and then again in 1950 defeating home favorites Brazil in the final match. Uruguay has also won more Copa America titles than any other team in South America. But is the current crop of players on the team strong enough to win again? The team seems to be doing quite well and experienced players such as Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will not be easily intimidated. For more, please click here http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43930/profile.html
Costa Rica: Surfers love the beaches, yoga enthusiasts are into the fabulous retreats, the rainforest is breathtaking, and the volcano and hot springs every visitor’s dream. No wonder this country bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east is called the “Rich Coast.” It was once a poor and isolated colony, but since its independence in the 19th century, Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. After a violent period and a coup d’état, it abolished its army permanently in 1949, becoming the first and one of the few sovereign nations without a standing army. Costa Rica is also known for its progressive environmental policies, ranked fifth in the world and first among the Americas in terms of the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, and it is considered the greenest country on the planet. Indeed no wonder it is the jewel of Central America: the richness of its natural resources, its tropical climate and its political stability make it a great place to live and an attractive vacation and leisure spot!
Soccer News – Not usually getting very far at the World Cup, the arrival of the Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto as national team coach has ushered in a new era for Costa Rica. They qualified second in their group, only behind team USA. Their successful campaign was based on allowing fewer goals than any other team and on their formidable home record of five wins in five games in the final phase. Their key player Bryan Ruiz who played in the Netherlands and in England is considered one of the best playmakers in the North, Central American and Caribbean region. He is surrounded by a good cast of tried-and-trusted performers like Alvaro Saborio, Cristian Bolanos and outstanding goalkeeper Keilor Navas. Will they go further than ever in their World Cup history? To find out more info, go to: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43901/profile.html
England: is an island nation, sharing land borders with Scotland in the north and Wales to the west. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest, the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south, separating it from Continental Europe. AKA the country of Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Big Ben, Stonehenge, Sir Isaac Newton, the Industrial Revolution, The Beatles, James Bond, Fish and Chips with a pint of ale, fabulous tea… and of course the most talked about and photographed royal family on the planet. During the long reign of Queen Victoria it was said that “the sun never set on the British Empire.” But even though the glory days of the United Kingdom are long gone, the English language, the Anglican Church, and English law – the basis for the common law legal systems of many other countries around the world – and the country’s parliamentary system of government have been widely adopted by other nations. But make no mistake – besides all of its rich history and world influence, this country is absolutely NUTS about sports, especially rugby and soccer.
Soccer News – England always plays well on the international stage, but has only won the World Cup once in 1966. The road to Brazil 2014 was not as smooth as their campaign to reach South Africa, where they won nine of their ten matches on the way to the 2010 finals. Qualifying this time around was not as easy as in the past because many of England’s excellent players have retired, gone into coaching or are pursuing other soccer related ventures. Wayne Rooney remains England’s greatest talent and key player, joined by Gerrard and Frank Lampard who provide experience and creativity in midfield, while Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andros Townsend represent the Three Lions’ young attacking talent. More details about their team and winning chances at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43942/profile.html
Italy: AKA “the boot” due to its shape sticking out into the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe. To the north, Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. To the south, it consists of the Italian Peninsula (the boot) and the two biggest Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. There are also two sovereign states, namely San Marino and the Vatican City that are enclaves within Italy, while Campione d’Italia is an Italian exclave in Switzerland. Besides being known for its culinary specialties such as pizza, pasta, calamari, delicious veal dishes, gelato, espresso, as well as for its wines, top notch fashion designers and its beautiful beaches, Italy has to be on equal footing with Greece when it comes to its culture and history. Rome, Italy’s capital and largest city, has been the leading political and religious center of Western civilization for centuries, serving as the capital of both the Roman Empire and Christianity. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites (49) than any other country in the world, and has rich collections of art, culture and literature from many different periods. The country has also had broad cultural influence worldwide, because numerous Italians emigrated to other places. Julius Cesar, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante Alighieri and Petrarch, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini, Marco Polo, Giovanni da Verrazzano, Christopher Columbus, and modern day artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Federico Fellini, Sophia Loren, Sergio Leone, and Eros Ramazzotti are just a few of Italy’s best.
Soccer News – The most popular sport in Italy is, by far, soccer. Italy’s Squadra Azzurra has won four FIFA World Cups (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006), currently ranking as the world’s second most successful national football team, just after Brazil. Captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo are the only survivors from their 2006 triumph in Germany. But they can count on a young crew headed by central defender Andrea Ranocchia and midfielder Marco Verratti. For more details about this transitioning team and its World Cup hopes go to http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43954/profile.html
Switzerland: also known as the Swiss Confederation, a confederation of 26 cantons (states), is a small country lodged in the highest mountains of Europe, the Alps. As a landlocked country, it is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Commonly known for its picturesque ski resorts, quaint Medieval towns and old Roman amphitheaters, as well as for its cheese specialties such as Fondue and Raclette and its fine chocolate and watch-making traditions, it is also famous for its neutrality in international relations. In fact, the country hasn’t been involved in a war for over two centuries and hosts many agencies of the United Nations, including the World Health Organization and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This city is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and the cradle of Swiss Reformation through Jean Calvin. The 8-million strong population speaks 4 different official languages, which are Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch. This linguistic diversity, influenced by neighboring countries, is in fact at the heart of Swiss culture. It is also defined by its topography consisting of some of the largest lakes in Western Europe and the Alps, which cover the greater part of the country. Tourists and locals can enjoy mountain activities such as skiing, mountain biking and hiking all year long. And although skiing, ice skating and snowboarding are among the most popular sports, many Swiss are die-hard soccer fans!
Soccer News – Despite Switzerland being the home to the FIFA Headquarters, the Swiss “Nati” has had a very mixed track record throughout World Cup history and has not yet won a World Cup. In fact, their players are not considered “pros” in the traditional sense as all the players have “day jobs” off the pitch. Despite this background, their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, has high hopes for them as they are preparing for Brazil 2014. For more info about the team and its chances, go to: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43971/profile.html
Ecuador: was once part of the Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in the 16th Century. Since its independence in 1830, the country has experienced a long and turbulent political history. Bordered by Colombia in the north, Peru in the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Ecuador is a bio-diverse region with various landscapes from the Amazon rainforest to the Andes mountain ranges. Its capital, Quito, is very close to three active volcanoes, including one of the world’s highest. The Galapagos Islands, home to the Giant Tortoise, located 600 miles west of Continental Ecuador, attract many scuba divers and snorkelers. The Ecuadorian population stands at approximately 15.5 million people and the official language is Spanish. However, in the interior regions, Quechua and other indigenous languages remain in use. In the last decade, the traditional musical genre “Pasillo” has taken the world music scene by storm. Ecuador is also known for its Alpaca shawls and handmade clothes, along with Ecuadorian crafts which can be purchased on local markets across the country. As in most South American countries, soccer is Ecuador’s favorite sport and everybody loves to cheer for the national team!
Soccer News – The country has not made it to the World Cup often. However, since 2002 it has been improving steadily in the group phase and in other stages of the game. On the road to Brazil 2014, Ecuador’s performance has been inconsistent. While La Tricolor went undefeated at home, the away matches were not always as successful. But their star captain, Antonio Valencia, winger Cristhian Noboa, as well as forwards Felipe Caicedo and Jefferson Montero represent an exciting new wave for Ecuadorian football. Let’s see what they can do this time around! For more information, please click here http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43927/profile.html
France: the country of human rights and Haute Couture, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and shares a border with Belgium and Luxembourg to the North, Germany and Switzerland to the East, Italy and Monaco on the South East border, and Spain and Andorra in the South. It also has a western Atlantic Ocean coastline. France’s history extends from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to the Revolution, and made its way through many wars and internal strife to peace times in modern day Europe. In France, tourists can enjoy many museums, castles, monuments and historical landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But the capital is not the only highlight – the Riviera, Provence, Normandy and the Alps also attract many visitors. In fact, France is ranked as the number one tourist destination in the world. Champagne, wine, cheese and bread are the most famous items on its fine gastronomic menu. French is the official language and is very often referred to as “the language of Molière.” Other famous French writers are fabulist Jean de la Fontaine, Victor Hugo and Jules Verne. Impressionism was also born here with the iconic painter Claude Monet. Other famous artists include Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, but also contemporary bands Phoenix and Daft Punk. In sports, the French population of over 65 million enjoys watching tennis and rugby, but always prefers a well-played soccer game.
Soccer News – “Les Bleus” won the Cup in 1998, during which France played Cup host, and then the Euro Cup in 2000. The team has been in a slump ever since, but their new coach, 98′ team captain and world champion Didier Deschamps, has been able to get the team back on its feet. They hope to finally shine again in an international tournament. Former stars include Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini. This year’s star players include goalie Hugo Lloris and strikers Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema. More info on the team’s odds can be found at: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43946/profile.html
Honduras: is a Central American country and a biodiversity hotspot. It mainly consists of mountains but also has a jungle region in the Northeast. It is home to numerous plant and animal species, including a wide range of orchids, the national flower. The country gained its independence from Spain in 1821. However, before the colonialists, the Mayas prospered there for hundreds of years. Mayan archaeological sites and vestiges from the 16th Century Spanish colonization bear witness to this long history. Honduras’ population is over 8 million and the official language is Spanish, although some speak indigenous Caribbean and Native American languages. Honduras’ coastline extends along the Caribbean Sea in the north and the Pacific Ocean to the South. It also has borders to the west with Guatemala, to the southwest with El Salvador, and to the southeast with Nicaragua. The climate varies from tropical in the jungle to temperate in the mountains and the country is prone to hurricanes. Since independence, civil wars and constitutional crises have occurred – the most recent in 2009. Nevertheless, Independence Day is celebrated nationwide with music, traditional food such as tamales and tortillas, and colorful parades. Legends and fairy tales, filled with chimeras and lost cities, are also a big part of Honduran culture.
Soccer News – Honduras is another team that seldom makes it to the Cup, but this year coach Luis Fernando Suarez has bigger plans- if not to win, then to get further in the game than ever before. Emilio Izaguirre was named Scottish Premier League Player of the year and Wilson Palacios plays for Stoke City. Together with Carlo Costly, who has impressed alongside rising star Jerry Bengtson, as well as their goalie Noel Valladares, they should make an splash this time around. For more details, visit the FIFA World Cup website at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43909/profile.html
Argentina: This former Spanish colony earned its independence in 1816 after a 6-year long separation process followed by civil war. Since then, it has become a modern nation and one of the world’s top developing countries. Argentina covers most of the southern part of South America and shares a border with Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south. Its climate ranges from subtropical in the North, temperate in the fertile Pampas to subpolar in Patagonia. With a mainland area of 1,073,500 square miles, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second-largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The current population is approximately 43 million people and the main language is Spanish, though many émigrés speak Italian, Arabic and German, a result of the second biggest immigration wave in the 18th and 19th century. This multicultural environment has contributed to a rich and diverse culture: from gaucho tradition to the elegance of tango, from Mercedes Sosa to Carlos Gardel, from Esteban Echeverría to Jorge Luis Borges, from Eva Perón to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Wining and dining is all important and chorizo, empanadas, locro, asado barbecue, and dulce de leche are just a few of the delicacies that can be enjoyed along with a good glass of Malbec. The national sport since 1953 is “Pato”, a horseback game that combines elements from polo and basketball, but it is not as popular as soccer!
Soccer News – Argentina has won two World Cups and has soccer players on almost every major team in the international arena. The team has been coordinated and cohesive in the past, but more recently they have had a harder time with synchronization. Has Coach Alejandro Sabella been able to get them functioning as a team again? Star player Lionel Messi is currently considered one of the best players in the world. As they say, third time’s the charm! Former legendary players include Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta. For more info, go to http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43922/profile.html
Bosnia-Herzegovina: located in the Balkan Peninsula, is a country at the crossroads between two worlds: Central Europe and the Mediterranean. Under the Ottoman empire for over five centuries, it was then under Austro-Hungarian rule for many years. The population of almost 4 million consists of three main ethnic groups, Bosnians, Serbs and Croats, and three corresponding official languages. Bosnians are mainly of Muslim faith while the other two groups are mostly Christian. When Yugoslavia broke apart in 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as other countries in the area got drawn into a violent war and have been recovering ever since. Its capital Sarajevo, also called the “European Jerusalem,” offers breathtaking landscapes, from river canyons to the wild and untouched eastern side of the Alps, as well as historical, religious and cultural treasures make this Slavic country an increasingly popular tourist destination. It is almost landlocked, with only 12 miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea and bordered by Croatia to the North and West, Serbia to the East and Montenegro to the South. Similarly to Italians, the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina cultivate their love for strong coffee and great soccer!
Soccer News – This is the country’s very first World Cup. The main players are Edin Dzeko and Zvjezdan Misimovic. Since it is their first World Cup, none of the players have played in such a large-scale tournament and experienced such a high level of pressure. How they will perform is anyone’s guess at this point. To get to know them, please click here: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=44037/profile.html
Iran: is located in Western Asia and bordered by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey. It has also a coastline on the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Home to diverse ethnic and linguistic groups, its dominant and official language is Persian. Housing the largest natural gas supply in the world, the country exerts considerable influence over the world economy and energy sector. Iran’s political system uniquely combines parliamentary democracy with an Islamic theocracy headed by a Supreme Religious Leader. The country’s widely celebrated artistic and literary traditions are legacies of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Two of its most prominent poets, Rumi and Omar Khayyám, are studied throughout the Western world. Recently, Iranian cinema has also been acclaimed around the world and awarded prestigious international prizes. The young population – two thirds of it is under the age of 25 – enjoys playing polo, skiing north of Tehran, or practicing wrestling, the national sport. But above all, they love playing soccer!
Soccer News – While Iran has given solid performances in regional matches, its team has not been able to progress beyond the group phase in World Cup competitions. The team recently hired a new coach, Carlos Queiroz, and the world is waiting to see how the new recruit will impact the team’s success on the field this year. Former stars include Ali Daei and Khodadad Azizi. For more details about the road to Brazil 2014 and their odds, go to http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43817/profile.html
Nigeria: the “Giant of Africa”, with a population of approximately 178 million, is Africa’s most populous country and the seventh most populous country in the world. It is home to roughly 500 ethnic groups and its official language is English, a legacy of the colonial influence and rule of Great Britain, from which Nigeria gained independence in 1960. However, an extensive diversity of African languages co-exists alongside English: Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo and Fulani among others. The country’s three main ethnic groups – the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba – dominate Nigerian politics, and the country’s dominant religions are split roughly equally between Christianity and Islam. This Western African country is located in the Gulf of Guinea and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Nigeria has a petroleum-based economy and also benefits from vast mineral resources including natural gas, coal, bauxite, tantalite, gold, tin, iron ore, limestone, niobium, lead and zinc, which have been relatively unexploited up to this day. The landscape varies from tropical rainforest to savannah, and from mountains and plateaus to the swampy Niger Delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world, with its impressive mangroves. When it comes to sports, Nigeria’s favorite is unanimously soccer!
Soccer News – Nigeria’s team, the “Super Eagles”, is regularly featured at the World Cup and has distinguished itself in a number of regional African competitions, though the team has recently experienced some setbacks. But Coach Stephen Keshi has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense boss who has maintained the team’s solid foundation since then, with Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, Vincent Enyeama, goalie and veteran, Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike up front. For more details, visit http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43876/profile.html
Germany: With a population of over 80 million, Germany is the most populous member state of the European Union and the fourth largest economy in the world. Known for its strong historical tradition of literature and philosophy, the country has been dubbed “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” (the land of poets and thinkers)… just to name a few of the cultural icons: Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Planck, Einstein, Beethoven and Wagner. And while the country is widely recognized for its national beverage, beer, and dishes consisting of sausages, cabbage and potatoes, it is a lesser known fact that Germany is home to no fewer than nine three-star Michelin-rated restaurants. German, the national language, is derived from the term Germania used by the Romans to refer to the territories and peoples east of the Rhine. The German word, Deutsch, comes from old High German for “people” or “commoners,” a designation used to distinguish the German vernacular from Latin.
Soccer News – The German team is another major contender at the World Cup. With wins by West Germany in 1954, 1974 and 1990, the country has also been runner up countless times during the history of the competition. This year’s team boasts Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer and Andre Schurrle. Former stars include Lothar Matthaus, Franz Beckenbauer and Oliver Kahn. For more details – http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43948/profile.html
Portugal: Bordered by Spain to the north and east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south, Portugal is the westernmost country in Western Europe, with a population of approximately 10 million. A global maritime and colonial power in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal suffered a major earthquake in 1755, which, combined with the independence of Brazil and its occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, led to a relative loss in status. The empire’s legacy throughout the world nonetheless remains strong to this day; with 250 million Portuguese speakers not just on the European continent and Brazil, but also in Africa, it is the sixth most spoken language worldwide. Fado (destiny or fate) is a typical Portuguese music genre from the 19th century, but possibly with much earlier origins. It is characterized by mournful melodies and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word “saudade,” a unique concept roughly equivalent to “home sickness” but denoting a deeper kind of longing that combines nostalgia, sadness, pain, happiness and love.
Soccer News – The Portuguese team’s current captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, widely regarded as one of the two best players in the world within his generation (the other being Lionel Messi was awarded the European Golden Shoe in 2008, 2011 and 2014 outdoing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and many more. While Nani and Joao Pereira are also notable players, Ronaldo is the go-to guy for Coach Paulo Bento. Former stars include Eusebio, Luis Figo and Coluna. For more details and regular updates about the team’s performance during the World Cup, please go to http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43963/profile.html
Ghana: Located along the gulf of Guinea in the West African sub-region, Ghana is a country of mostly low plains with a small coastal area. Among other distinctions, the country is one of the world’s leading cocoa producers and gold exporters and is widely recognized for becoming the first African nation to declare its independence from a European colonizer in 1957. In doing so, Ghana inspired other African nations to follow in its footsteps and has exerted significant influence on black pride movements throughout the world. Ghana’s population is approximately 25 million, and its official language is English. In addition, the vast majority of the population also speaks Akan and one or several of the Niger-Congo languages. During the 13th century, Ghanaians developed their unique art of adinkra printing. Each of the motifs that make up the whole of adinkra symbolism has a name and meaning derived from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, plant, and shapes of objects. These are graphically rendered in stylized geometric shapes which appear on fabric used for clothing, among other things.
Soccer News – Another African team that has regularly participated in the World Cup, the Ghanaian team survived one of Africa’s toughest qualifying groups by winning five of their six matches against 2012 African champions Zambia, Lesotho and Sudan. Ghana’s Black Stars are pinning their hopes on players such as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari as well as players hitting their prime like Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin-Prince Boateng. For more details, go to: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43860/profile.html
USA: AKA “home of the brave,” the Boston Tea Party, the Western Frontier, Sitting Bull, the Alamo, the Blue and the Gray, the Stock Market, Mount Rushmore, Lady Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Everglades, Hollywood, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, the New York Yankees and Babe Ruth, Magic and Jordan, Armstrong and Holiday, Ella and Miles, Elvis and Michael, Monroe & Warhol, Kansas City BBQ, Southern Fried Chicken, Pulled Pork and Sweet Tea, Seafood Gumbo and Beignets, Clam Chowder and Apple Pie… the world’s third most populous nation with 318 million inhabitants is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse countries. This variety is the product of large-scale immigration over many generations that has continued to this day. The nation’s cultural diversity is mirrored by the great variety in geographical formations and climate spanning one end of the country to the other. While its two most populous cities, New York and Los Angeles, are among the best known throughout the world, considerable urban expansion is also taking place in the western and southern regions of the country. The metro areas of Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix grew by more than one million inhabitants between 2000 and 2008.
Soccer News – Although baseball, American football, and basketball are clearly the most popular sports here, soccer has found a remarkable following in the recent past Watch out for this team which, under the leadership of coach Jürgen Klinsmann, won an seven out of ten qualifying matches, finishing four points ahead of Costa Rica. If the trajectory continues for Klinsmann’s Stars and Stripes, the sky might just be the limit in Brazil. For more details and up-to-date standings during the World Cup, go to: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43921/profile.html
Belgium: Belgique, België, or Belgien, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal monarchy in Western Europe with a population of 10 million people speaking three official languages: French, Flemish and German. Its capital, Brussels, is a mostly French-speaking enclave in the Flemish-speaking region and is home to the European Union and NATO headquarters. Reflective of the country’s diverse and at times conflicting cultural communities is its complex system of government frequently headed by coalitions representing these different interests. The country is known worldwide for its high quality chocolate, which many believe to be superior to Swiss, though this is perhaps best left to individual taste. Besides chocolate Belgium is world famous for its scrumptious waffles topped with whipped cream, more varieties of mussels and other fish dishes than you can think of and, of course, French fries – yes, that’s right! Fries don’t come from France, they are actually a Belgian invention. To top it all off, Belgium has perfected the art of brewing beer over the past few centuries, starting in small monasteries because at the time beer was considered more sanitary than water. Today there are approximately 180 breweries in the country ranging from international giants such as Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe to lesser known microbreweries. Most beers come in bottles and almost every style of beer has its own particular, uniquely shaped glass. Using the correct glass is considered to improve the beer’s flavor.
Soccer News – The country is a founding member of FIFA and has taken part in 11 World Cup tournaments. After a dry spell, Les Diables Rouges (Red Devils) have rejuvenated their team and finished on top of Group A in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014, ahead of Croatia, Serbia and Scotland. Belgium has star players playing on many European teams, including Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany. Their best ranking in World Cup history was fourth place in Mexico in 1986. Will their young and motivated national team finally break through this time? For more information, please visit: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43935/profile.html
Algeria: is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Its capital and largest city is Algiers. With a population of approximately 38 million, Algeria is the tenthlargest country in the world and the largest by territory in Africa. It is bordered in the northeast by Tunisia, in the east by Libya, in the west by Morocco, in the southwest by Western Sahara, Mauritania and Mali, in the southeast by Niger, and in the north by the Mediterranean Sea. Most of Algeria’s population is of Berber origin, an ethnic identity distinct to North Africa. The country has seen invasion by the Roman Empire, the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century, the Ottoman Turks and the French in 1830. After more than a century of rule by France, Algeria achieved its independence in 1962. Due to its location and its history, Algeria has a very rich and diverse cultural fabric. Algeria’s official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Algerian Arabic (Darja) is the language used by the majority of the population. Berber is spoken by 25% of the population and has been recognized as a national language since 2002. The Kabyle language, the predominant Berber language, is taught and is partially co-official in parts of Kabylie. Although French has no official status, Algeria is the second largest French-speaking country in the world and French is widely used in government, culture, media, the education system and academia due to the country’s colonial history. It can be regarded as being the de facto co-official language of Algeria.
Soccer News – Although Algeria produces many great soccer players who go on to play in the European leagues, its national team has played in 3 World Cups and has never gotten past the group phase. However, Algeria surprised many on their way to Brazil 2014. They won five of their six group matches to easily top what might have been a tricky group including Mali, Benin and Rwanda. Madjid Bougherra is a key figure of this team, scoring the all-important winner in the second leg against Burkina Faso, along with midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, defender Medhi Lacen, and forward Islam Slimani. Will they be able to live up to their reputation and go further this time? For more details, go to: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43843/profile.html
Russia: The present-day Russian Federation spans the largest territory of any country in the world, occupying more than one-eighth of the planet’s habitable land. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan, Alaska and Canada’s Arctic islands. Based on its vast territory, Russia features climates ranging from temperate Mediterranean at the Baltic Sea to the Arctic cold in Siberia. The Soviet Union, which followed the country’s first socialist republic founded after its 1917 socialist revolution, eventually comprised 15 surrounding republics. The Union remained an integral force from 1922 to 1991, a period that saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the first satellite and human in space. In addition, and based on its history, Russia offers a rich cultural tradition. Russian literature brought forth the likes of Alexander Pushkin (the Shakespeare of Russia), Anton Chekhov, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Besides a great variety of folklore, Russian music composers are among the world’s greatest: Pyotr Illyich Tschaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev. Finally, ballet is a source of national pride, as Russia has produced some of the best ballerinas and ballet dancers in the world including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Anna Pavlova and Polina Semionova. The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg are the most renowned ballet venues in the world.
Soccer News – Russia is top notch in many sports, including ice hockey, bobsled, gymnastics and track and field. While its national soccer team has never won a World Cup, this time around it may be a different story. The Russians qualified easily on the road to Brazil 2014, winning four out of four matches and even beating Portugal in Moscow. The team is known for its technically gifted and synchronized mid-field unit and a solid defense featuring its most outstanding player, goalie Igor Akinfeev. Let’s see if the Russians under the leadership of coach Fabio Capello will go all the way! For more info about the team and its progress during the World Cup, click on: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43965/profile.html
Republic of Korea: AKA South Korea, is located on the southern point of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, the Republic of Korea shares physical borders with North Korea and overseas borders with China and Japan. In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea in the aftermath of World War II, leaving Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south under U.S control. The two Cold War rivals then established governments based on their own ideologies, leading to Korea’s division into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea. The metropolitan area surrounding South Korea’s capital of Seoul is home to roughly half of Korea’s 50 million people, making it the second largest capital in the world. The country is home to one of the world’s largest economies, fueled to a large extent by information technology innovation and manufacturing. Some of the most successful companies include Samsung, Daewoo, Hyundai, and LG Corp. The country’s official language, Korean, has been classified as a Central Eurasian Altaic language, based on its structural similarities with Turkish, Mongolian and Japanese, though there is some controversy surrounding this classification.
Soccer News – Although Korea’s national sport is Taekwondo, the Taeguk Warriors have consistently shown up at the World Cup, their greatest success being a 4th place win in 2002 when Korea/Japan hosted the event. The team has undergone significant changes under Coach Hong Myungbo and the qualifiers were quite difficult on the road to Brazil 2014. But with team captain Lee Chungyong, who plays for Bolton in the British Premier League, and a series of emerging stars, notably German-based Son Heungmin and Koo Jacheol, they may have a shot at the trophy. For more info at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/teams/team=43822/profile.html