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World Cup 2014: Brazil Under Pressure To Rekindle Finals' Magic

03/06/2014 16:45 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 16:59 BST

The reaction was inevitable. Spain, world football's aesthetes, had just vanquished a bruising Holland side in the World Cup final with one of the last kicks of 120 moribund minutes. It was dressed as a victory for football, and the BBC's Alan Hansen lauded the first-time world champions as the tournament's "most exciting team". He had mispronounced "stultifying".

Holland, with their thuggish brutality and Nigel de Jong's kung-fu kick, made an unmemorable final memorable. Not everyone remembers Andrés Iniesta's winner but they do remember De Jong's studs thudding into Xabi Alonso's midriff. Spain won every single knockout match 1-0 and played out joyless homages to West Germany-Austria from 1982, whereas Holland recovered to beat Brazil in the quarters and defeated Uruguay 3-2 in a vibrant semi-final. They were more exciting.

South Africa 2010 was arguably the worst World Cup in the tournament's history, let alone living memory. A finals best remembered for its Jabulani ball, bore draws and fans as plastic as the vuvuzelas they wielded, there was little to suggest the country - or the continent - deserved to be hosts. Only 309,000 fans turned up when the government had been expecting 450,000 spectators.

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Van Bommel only has eyes for the ball, whilst De Jong only has eyes for Alonso

Almost every goal was greeted not by the crowd's roar, but that awful, blaring blaaarrrrrrm which burst eardrums and highlighted how manufactured World Cups had become. Goal music is bad enough, but this noise was the soundtrack equivalent of waterboarding.

World Cups have rarely matched the hype in recent memory. Sir Alex Ferguson, rather hubristically, said the last great World Cup was Mexico '86, when he managed Scotland. Italia '90 generated a record low goals-per-game average of just 2.21, USA '94 hosted the first - and only - scoreless final, France '98 was hardly stirring, the best teams at Korea and Japan were eliminated before the quarter-finals and Germany 2006 peaked at the group stage.

Brazil 2014 has much promise purely because of its location. There is a worthy romanticism about the country hosting the World Cup finals 64 years after Uruguay shocked 173,850 attendants inside the Maracanã in the 1950 de facto final.

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Brazilians' faith was partially restored following last year's Confederations Cup win

No one has won the World Cup more times than Brazil and yet this is their most underwhelming finals squad in decades. And still, no previous nation's host status has been trumpeted as loudly as Brazil's has. Brazilians' expectation alone is a fascinating narrative, although that is where excitement over Brazil only stems from.

They are over-reliant on Neymar, whereas in 2006 they had Ronaldo, Káka, Ronaldinho and Adriano. However much neutrals may loathe Luis Suárez, his absence from the World Cup would impoverish the tournament. He illuminated 2010 with a screamer against South Korea and his cheating against Ghana. Suárez was vilified in the African country - and by neutrals - however he did at least enliven a soporific tournament.

Harking back to the 1950 World Cup's group stage-only format, it seemed to augur the contemporary pragmatism. Knockout football preaches reticence, whereas the round robin format is more cutthroat and captivating, and Groups B, D and E are antidotes to France's convenient placement with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.

Who'll be at the 2014 World Cup?

Ghana threatened to emerge as the darlings in South Africa, although they benefited from universal sycophancy seemingly because they were the only African side to emerge from the group stage. Belgium, the obligatory dark horse riding in Brazil, boast a young, exciting squad but their run could be ended as early as the round-of-16 against Germany or Portugal. Colombia and Chile are vivacious South American sides and the former are competing in their first World Cup since 1998.

Hopefully, the recent trend of big players struggling to shine at World Cups will end. Zinedine Zidane's overstated contribution to France's campaign in 2006 emphasised how hysterical the hyperbole can soar when a talisman scores a winning penalty in the semi-final. Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored against Iran and North Korea at the World Cup while Lionel Messi has netted just once. Messi could add to that in Argentina's inviting group, yet Ronaldo could be stymied by a tough group and a weak Portugal squad.

Mexico '86's success occurred despite the searing heat. South Africa was staged in winter, yet only Diego Forlán seemed capable of mastering the Jabulani ball. Brazil will be a humid test and already England versus Italy, two European countries meeting in an Amazonian opener, has the makings of a goalless draw. They cancelled each other out over 120 minutes in Kiev's 59% humidity, let alone Manaus's 74%.

On the topic of percentages, stats remain the most ruthless football killjoys. Young fans, thanks to PlayStation, Football Manager and RT-baiting Twitter accounts, know who made the most forward passes in the Spain midfield and the record for ball retention by a corner flag at a World Cup. You used to just be reliant on Panini albums and the World Cup guide that your newspaper published.

There are no more unknown quantities, either. The global reach of football has dashed its mystique and there is probably an app that will inform you which African is likeliest to blast a dead ball into oblivion.

Most damaging is Fifa members's ghastly abuse of the tournament, charted again in meticulous detail by the Sunday Times this week. It is a reminder that the slogans and fanfare are merely hollow endorsements of the world's second largest sporting event, which has enabled the corrupt to dictate the history of an event via their own personal gain.

The World Cup is a tournament for the plutocrats, rather than the people, but football without fans is nothing. And we cannot wait for it to start.