Football's World Cup, held in a different country every four years, is set to begin Friday in Germany. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Hamburg, one of the 12 cities that will host a total of 64 matches, and has a preview.
Thirty-two teams are set to vie for football's most prestigious trophy in the month-long tournament that will open in Munich and close in Berlin.
The teams, which went through about two years of qualifying matches, are divided into eight groups of four for round -robin play, so each team is guaranteed three games.
A win is worth three points and a draw is worth one point. The top two teams in each group, or 16 nations, then move on to the single-elimination, or knockout, phase.
As the host nation, Germany will play the first match and will take on Costa Rica in Munich. The other two Group-A teams, Poland and Ecuador, meet on the opening day in Gelsenkirchen.
For fans unable to buy tickets, huge video screens have been set up in the host cities and other cities throughout Germany for public viewing.
Hamburg football fan Dennis Denecken told VOA Sports that residents are excited and he expects a huge crowd for the so-called Fan Fest here that will be held at a park in the St. Pauli district.
We will have more than 50-thousand people at the Fan Fest, and if you walk around the city, you'll see like all the shops, all the cars, everything is flagged with the German flag, and everyone is very excited.
And even though it was learned Thursday that German team captain Michael Ballack would not be able to play in the opening match because of a leg muscle injury, Denecken is not worried.
In my own opinion, he's a little overrated. He's got very good skills, of course, but I think Tim Borowski, who will replace him, will fit in this job. And he played a great season with Werder Bremen.
And even if I'm a Hamburg supporter and don't like Bremen that much, I think he'll make a great game.
Denecken says that even Germans who don't normally follow football, or soccer, are turning their attention to this World Cup. Even your Mom and Dad, who are not into soccer, they try to get fan gear, like little flags and T-shirts, and all this kind of stuff and it's just nice to see that also people who are not into soccer try to be involved in this World Cup thing and support it.
There is always pressure on the host nation to do well and that's no different this time for Germany. Defending champion, Brazil, picked by many to win the World Cup again, will be the last of he 32 teams to play a first round match, taking on Croatia in Group-F next Tuesday.