Article by Juan Carlos Montoya of www.golazoblog.com.
The twentieth edition of the FIFA World Cup to be held this year in Brazil will be an unprecedented soccer celebration. The festival will welcome the last 32 classified teams, of the 203 who started this long and painful process since its first game on June 15, 2011, between Belize and Montserrat.
After 820 games and 2350 goals the World Cup will begin on June 12, between the host country Brazil against Croatia. The soccer carnival will end on July 13, with 74,000 fans at the legendary Maracana stadium.
Brazil prepares to welcome half a million tourists among the 12 host cities during the 32 days. It will be an unique scenario for the last act of several gifted players that through the years have delighted us with their works on stage.
Among the most notable are:
Iker Casillas (32) and Xavi Hernandez (34)
First and second captain of “La Roja” respectively. Iker and Xavi will play their fourth World Cup and join an exceptional club of players of the likes of Maradona, Pele and Cafu. Casillas with 16 caps for Spain is two games short of equalising the German goalkeeper Sepp Maier, who holds the record for most games by a goalie in World Cups.
With over 283 international games between both, the experienced duo conquered the Euros in 2008 and 2012, and led Spain to their first World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Spain will seek to be leaders of the difficult group B and avoid the bracket against Brazil in their quest to defend the 2010 title and be the first European team to conquer the FIFA World Cup in America.
Gianluigi Buffon (36) and Andrea Pirlo (34)
Gigi Buffon and Pirlo have played for the “Azzurri” as captain and midfield maestro respectively, for the last 12 years. They lead Italy to their fourth World Cup in 2006 after defeating France in the penalty shootout at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Buffon and Pirlo’s experience will be key to get Italy into the second round in a very difficult group D. For many this is the group of death with three former world champions (Uruguay, England, Italy) and a motivated Costa Rican squad.
Miroslav Klose (36)
With 130 caps for the Mannschaft, the veteran striker of the German team is on the lookout for two important records in Brazil. With 68 goals he shares the record with the historical Gerd Muller as the best all time German scorer. The “bomber” is also two goals away to surpass the 15 goals held by Brazilian striker Ronaldo as the highest scorer in World Cup history.
This will be the last world cup in the CONCACAF region for the following players: Noel Valladares, Victor Bernardez, Edgar Alvarez, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Rafael Marquez.
Other important players that will play their last World Cup are: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Diego Forlan, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.