By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Starting on June 15th, the FIFA Confederations Cup will turn the sporting world’s attention to Brazil, as the cup will feature all regional football champions plus world champion Spain in the preparatory tournament for the World Cup. To visit each of the six host cities, while catching the best football (soccer) action, try this itinerary.
In order to get to see the most exciting games of the tournament, including all three group stage matches of the Seleção (Brazilian national team), the journey starts in the capital Brasília.
The opening ceremony and match in Brasília will take place on June 15th and feature the strong sides from Brazil and Japan. The game in Brasília’s Mané Garrincha stadium will be the only game in the brand new arena.
After or before the sporting action visitors can take in the city’s special architecture, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and planned by Lúcio Costa. Special visiting points are the Eixo Monumental including the building of the National Congress and the Metropolitan Cathedral, as well as the Lake Paranoá.
Next the tournament trip goes north and stops in Recife. Here, the group game between world champion Spain and Copa America winner Uruguay will take place in the Arena Pernambuco on June 16th. The match will start at 7PM, allowing for plenty of time to travel to Recife.
In Recife one can admire the many churches and historic monuments built by the Dutch and French colonizers in the 17th and 18th century. Some beach time should also be included by either visiting Boa Viagem beach or Porto das Galinhas.
Traveling further north the next stop is Fortaleza, where on June 19th the Seleção will meet CONCACAF and Olympic champions Mexico in the Castelão. This will be the occasion for the Brazilian’s to take revenge for the loss of the Olympic final to the Mexicans last year.
Fortaleza is also a major beach holiday destination, offering 25 kilometers of sand along the city, with a beach for everyone. Iracema beach for example is known as the bohemian spot and features a lively nightlife with many bars and clubs, whereas Praia do Futuro is frequented by surfers.
The fourth stop will be in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, where the next game of the Seleção will be played against European runner-up Italy on June 22nd. The brand new Fonte Nova Stadium will see plenty of action as these two former World Cup winners clash.
After the game, one can visit the city’s historic center Pelourinho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. A trip to Morro de São Paulo, the car-free town on Tinharé island is also worth a visit, as there are some resting days in the Confederations Cup’s schedule.
Leaving northern Brazil the next stop is Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. Here, the first semifinal between the winner of Group A and the runner-up of Group B can be attended on June 26th.
Next to the Mineirão stadium, one can also visit Oscar Niemeyer’s Igreja da Pampulha and other landmarks of modern architecture all assembled in the Pampulha district. Furthermore, Ouro Preto, the former state capital and historic gold town, lies less than two hours from Belo Horizonte.
The final destination is Rio de Janeiro, where also the final game of the Confederations Cup will take place in the newly renovated Maracanã on Sunday, June 30th. Cariocas hope to see the Seleção in their home town, but either way the final of the cup will make a great spectacle.
The suggested trip is best accomplished by acquiring TAM Brazil Airpass. This is a round-ticket for up to nine destinations in Brazil but must be purchased from outside of Brazil prior to the trip – together with the plane ticket to come and out of the country. For six destinations, ticket prices start at US$792.
The order of destinations has been laid out to follow the rules of the Airpass and can be traveled with direct flights, if seats are still available. Tickets for the games also need to be booked soon, as the current sales phase ends on May 28th.