WORLD Cup fever will bring some samba style to Wearside tonight as Brazil 2014 kicks off.
The hosts face Croatia at 9pm in the opening game of a feast of football that will culminate in the final on Sunday, July 13.
And with games starting at 5pm, 8pm and 11pm, bars and pubs across the city are set to cash in on hundreds of thirsty footie fans.
Sunderland’s new Business Improvement District is getting in on the act with day of South American-themed fun in the form of a ¡VAMOS! festival in the city centre on July 5, complete with live music, Brazilian dancing, children’s mask painting and the chance to try new food.
Bid chief executive Ken Dunbar is predicting city centre businesses will be the real winners, however far Roy Hodgson’s men get in the tournament.
“I think there will be a lot of people keen to get out and enjoy a great atmosphere rather than just sitting on the sofa and watching the match,” he said.
“My hope is that people will take this opportunity to come out and celebrate what the city’s night-time economy has to offer.”
A good run by England could provide a real boost to the economy in all sorts of way, said Ken.
“I have never worked anywhere that a good performance by the football team, be it the national side or the local team, has not had a positive knock-on effect,” he said. Productivity goes up, everybody feels good.”
England’s campaign to get out of Group D starts with a tough draw against Italy on Saturday evening, followed by Uruguay on Thursday, June 19,and Costa Rica on Tuesday, June 24.
Scots-born Ken is rooting for the Auld Enemy and reckons England will have enough to make it to the knock-out stage.
“As the only team from the UK I have been able to support at a World Cup for God knows how many years, England have my support,” he said.
“I am confident they will be able to make it out of the group, especially if the can get Daniel Sturridge fit in time.”
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Profitable month of late nights
PUB manager Kelly Kennedy is looking forward to a big World Cup win.
Kelly, who runs The Lambton Worm in Sunderland city centre, is aiming to maximise the benefit from a month of top class footie.
“We’ll be showing all matches on a large screen and we have the benefit of a late night weekend licence,” she said. “We’re looking forward to the World Cup season, since trade has quietened with the students returning home.”
With the pub screening both Sky Sports and ESPN, Kelly is optimistic the tournament will see a rise in sales.
“We’re also open to 1am on weekdays so I think that will play well with the week night matches,” she said.
Pubs have been given the thumbs-up to stay open for the tournament’s late kick-offs, but not all have decided to apply for extended opening hours.
Greens, in Low Row, already has a late licence and boss Claire Davison is confident the World Cup will be busy.
“We’ll be showing the Brazil v Croatia match,” she said.
“I expect we’ll be busy, as we’ll be serving food as usual during the weekend games and we’ve added some promotional decoration.”
Even those pubs which will not be screening games are predicting an up-turn in trade.
“The Ivy House in Worcester Terrace has no plans to show games but a spokesman said staff were still braced for a rise in footfall.
Fancy 150-1 Japan?
Picked out Japan in the office sweepstake? What are the chances you’ll be scooping the jackpot come July 13?
Skybet’s odds: Brazil 11/4; Argentina 4/1; Spain 6/1; Germany 6/1; Belgium 20/1; Portugal 22/1; France 22/1; England 25/1; Italy 25/1; Uruguay 28/1; Holland 28/1; Colombia 40/1; Chile 50/1; Russia 80/1; Switzerland 100/1; Ecuador 125/1; Ivory Coast 150/1; Bosnia-Herzegovina 150/1; Japan 150/1; Croatia 175/1; Mexico 200/1; Greece 200/1; Ghana 200/1; South Korea 250/1; USA 250/1; Nigeria 300/1; Cameroon 750/1; Honduras 1500/1; Algeria 1500/1; Iran 2500/1; Costa Rica 2500/1; Australia 2500/1.