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World Cup Refresher: Everything to Know Before Kick-Off

Need a soccer primer? The 20th FIFA World Cup begins today in Brazil, and any self-respecting sports fan ought know the basics on the world’s biggest athletic event. Your talking points—and best bets—are below. (We suggest betting on teams that speak Spanish or Portuguese.) —Lucas Condon

The Host Country is the Winningest

The first World Cup was held in 1930, and Brazil has taken the title five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002). Italy has won 4 times. Spain is the reigning champion, having taken the 19th World Cup title in 2010.

Unlike the Olympics, the Entire Nation Plays Host

Matches will be held in twelve different venues across Brazil, stretching from the southernmost Porto Alegre to the Amazonian city of Manaus. However, with many of the facilities still under construction at the 11th hour, questions have been raised over the readiness of the nation to receive hundreds of thousands of fans.

Half of the Teams Will Advance Past Pool Play

The tournament begins with all 32 teams split into eight groups of four. Each team will play a total of three games against its group opponents; three points are given for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. At the end of the group stages, the top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stages.

It’s Best to Bet on the Home Team

Many favor the Brazilians to conquer on their own soil, believing they have the strongest overall talent (not to mention the home-field advantage). They also beat the other favorite—the reigning champion Spanish team—in last year’s Confederations Cup final. For those who are feeling patriotic, a $20 punt on the underdog USA will reap generous rewards at 250/1 odds.

The Best Players Speak Spanish and Portuguese

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: The current holder of World’s Best Player Award (after a season in which he scored a record 59 goals in only 51 games) is sure to provide a spark.
Neymar, Brazil: Very much the creative force behind the samba style of the Brazilian team, Neymar is expected to shoulder the nation’s hopes at the tender age of 22.
Diego Costa, Spain: One of the most controversial stories of this World Cup is the decision of Brazilian-born Costa to play for his adopted nation Spain. He is one of the most lethal strikers in the world.
Lionel Messi, Argentina: Regarded by many to be the greatest player to ever grace the field, Messi has endured a somewhat regular season by his own meteoric standards. With the World Cup as the prize, expect Messi’s footwork to be anything but.

The U.S. Got a Tough Draw

Odds are against the Stars and Stripes to advance, largely because of what some are calling the “Group of Death”: Powerhouses Germany and Portugal are major forces. However, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann is himself a former German player—perhaps he’ll know the trick to beating his home country.

The Winning Team Gets a Real Nice Payout

Given that this will be the most expensive World Cup in the history of the competition (37% more than in 2010), the winning prize of $576,000,000 is also the highest amount ever. Each team pays its players differently.

Office Hacks to Watch The Games

One of the hardest battles during any major sporting event is finding the time to watch the games. Trying to watch at work? No cable at home? Roja Directa live streams all games. They may not be in English, but soccer is universal, isn’t it?

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