World Cup casts negativity over Brazil
Brazil was convulsed by protests about the amount of money being spent to host the event.
LONDON - The World Cup finals are not taking place until the middle of next year, but they cast a long and, at times, disturbing shadow over Brazil and the world of football in 2013.
As countries battled to qualify for the finals, Brazil was convulsed by protests in more than 100 cities about the vast amount of money being spent to stage the tournament.
Angry Brazilians targeted the Confederations Cup warm-up event in June to gain maximum publicity for their grievances about the paucity of government funds for health, education, public transportation and welfare while billions were being spent on stadiums.
The building of those stadiums has caused no end of problems too, falling behind schedule to cause more headaches for world governing body FIFA and Brazil's World Cup organisers.
An accident which killed two workers in Sao Paulo in November means the stadium being used for the opening match in June will not be ready until April. Fan violence at Brazilian championship matches is another worrying development.
The authorities are under no illusions about what could happen off the field next year, but what may follow on it will preoccupy the rest of the world.
Under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil is emerging as favourites to win the World Cup for the sixth time. Victory on home soil would go some way to alleviate the pain of what is still regarded as a national tragedy - failing to win in 1950, the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil.
Scolari has spoken at length about how the crowds at the Confederations Cup inspired players like Neymar, Fred and Paulinho to take the trophy with a scintillating 3-0 victory over world champions Spain in the final at Rio's Maracana.
Spain will be back to defend the title they won in South Africa in 2010 and attempt to become the first European side to win a World Cup in Latin America.
Vicente del Bosque's side qualified comfortably, coming through their preliminary matches unbeaten, and remained top of FIFA's world rankings throughout the year. But Spain face tough competition from Brazil and the improving South American sides of Argentina and Chile, and also from much closer to home.