John Foster tells you everything you need to know about this summer's sites of glory in Brazil...
Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
England’s choice of Rio for their World Cup base raised some eyebrows. The Maracana will host four group games, none of which will feature England, and the final, which also won’t feature England.
Key match: World Cup Final, July 13. The Maracana’s 78,000 seats are likely to be mostly empty by the time the competition reaches its climax, as the population of Brazil rapidly tires of constant football.
Tourist tip: Sugarloaf Mountain is a treat for all the family, though increasingly worn away by the volume of tourist visits. Remember to brush your teeth afterwards.
Arena da Amazonia, Manaus
The jungle city of Manaus is the least well-known of the World Cup venues, having been lost to civilisation in the early twentieth century. It is believed to lie somewhere along the Solimoes River, although colourful local legend also places it in the Pacaraima Mountains, off the Bay of Santa Rosa, and in Hell.
Key match: England vs Italy, June 14. The Group D opener is likely to finish goalless unless one or both teams can find the long-lost Arena da Amazonia before next weekend.
Tourist tip: A goatherd called Moises is the last man alive who knows the true location of Manaus, but he is said to be both illiterate and mute.
Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
The largest city in the southern hemisphere is home to several football clubs, including Sao Paulo, Palmeiras and Portuguesa, who all play in the Brazilian Serie A, and Corinthians, who play in the Isthmian League Division One South.
Key match: Uruguay vs England, June 19. Much will depend on which Luis Suarez shows up: the devastating striker who scored 31 Premier League goals for Liverpool last season, or the 54-year old manager of Honduras.
Tourist tip: Sao Paulo is famed for its samba schools, which also teach tango, lambada, bossa nova, and maths.
Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte, meaning flat belly, was the site of England’s famous 10-1 win over the USA in 1950, which was erroneously recorded as a 0-1 defeat. The city is the capital of Minas Gerais province, which borders Sao Paulo to the south and Minas Tirith to the west.
Key match: Costa Rica v England, June 24. Costa Rica talisman Bryan Ruiz is deadly from 20 yards, but utterly ineffective from more than 20 yards or fewer than 20 yards.
Tourist tip: Belo Horizonte is known as ‘the city of bars’. Around three-quarters of the commercial properties in the cities are bars, with the remainder being either pubs, taverns, hostelries or cafés with a license.
Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Should England win their group, their second round clash will take place in Recife’s Arena Pernambuco. Recife, which endures constant rain and is made entirely of mirrors, was originally founded in a magic realist novella.
Key match: Sport Recife vs Botafogo, July 15. Can the newly promoted Lions keep their good form going against Vágner Mancini’s black-and-white army?
Tourist tip: The ghosts of men who died in the Praieira Revolt of 1848 congregate in the central square of Boa Viagem every full moon. Entrance is free but arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Among the other World Cup venues, the grand Estadio Nacional is located in Brasilia, a city constructed at great cost especially for the World Cup. Curitiba and Cuiaba are widely considered the Budapest and Bucharest of South America, while controversy lingers over the choice of Natal’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, best known for hosting five matches at World Cup 2010 in South Africa.