GAME PLAN

9 Cities, 9 Parties for World Cup Soccer

Can't make it to South Africa for this summer's World Cup? Get into the spirit of the June 11 to July 11 tournament with big-screen viewing parties in one of these soccer-mad capitals.

Sing-along: There's no signature song, but there's plenty of screaming of "Allez les Bleus!" ("Go Blues!").

Sideline tip: Just two days after the final match, the celebration will likely move down the Seine River to Place de la Bastille for an annual dance party that promises to be especially festive if the French squad wins a championship.

RIO DE JANEIRO
The big party: If celebrating were a competitive sport, five-time World Cup champ Brazil would be unbeatable. Case in point: 32 straight days of 20,000-person Copacabana Beach parties, starting with a pre-Cup concert June 10 and including live beach broadcasts of all 64 matches.

Marquee matchup: Clash of the titans against sixth-ranked Portugal, June 25 at 11 a.m.

Sing-along: "A Taça do Mundo é nossa! Com Brasileiro, não há quem possa!" ("The World Cup is ours! No one can handle Brazilians!").

Sideline tip: Drop by Estádio do Maracanã, one of the world's largest stadiums and site of the 2014 World Cup. Even if the stadium is closed to tours because of renovations, you can stand in the pavement footprints of soccer greats Pelé and Ronaldo at the accompanying museum (Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo, 011-55/21-2234-1705, $11).

ROME
The big party: There's only a footprint left of the Circus Maximus stadium where ancient Romans gathered to watch chariot races, but it's a large footprint. About 700,000 fans packed into this standing-room-only grassy knoll (and the nearby streets) to watch Italy's team hoist the 2006 World Cup trophy. Feeling bullish about a repeat, Rome will invite fans to watch every 2010 match here. Even Caesar would have been impressed by the anticipated crowds.

Marquee matchup: Italy vs. up-and-coming power Paraguay, June 14 at 8:30 p.m.

Sing-along: No one is quite sure why Italian fans took to chanting to the tune of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" during the team's 2006 title run, but they liked the result and have stuck with the song ("I'm gonna fight 'em off/A seven-nation army couldn't hold me back"). Fans sing along to the pounding guitar riff: "Po-po-po-po-po-PO-ooh."

Sideline tip: The viewing parties are just one part of this year's Estate Romana (Roman summer), a four-month festival of open-air movies, concerts, and sporting events in classic settings like the ancient stone amphitheater at the port of Ostia Antica, including the Golden Gala, a track-and-field event that brings world-class athletes to Stadio Olimpico on June 10 (estateromana.comune.roma.it).

SYDNEY
The big party: Australia's enthusiasm for its boys in green and gold will be on full display in Darling Harbour, where two floating Jumbotrons are set to screen every game for the total of 30,000 fans watching for free from adjacent Cockle Bay Wharf and Tumbalong Park. Expect fireworks by the Harbour Bridge if the Australian heroes triumph.

Marquee matchup: Australia vs. three-time champ Germany, June 14 at 4:30 a.m.

Sing-along: "Waltzing Matilda," a nationalistic ballad about a noble sheep thief, is the raucous anthem belted out during games. Crowds will sing lines about the itinerant worker (called a swagman) who dove into a small lake (a billabong) to escape capture: "Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong, 'You'll never take me alive,' said he."

Sideline tip: Stay awake before the late-night (and early-morning) matches with lively experimental music, film and theater events at the Vivid Sydney festival, held at the Sydney Opera House and various other locations May 27 through June 21.

TOKYO
The big party: Up to 37,000 fans, many clad in all-blue outfits topped with red-sun headbands, will head to the Saitama Super Arena to watch their Samurai Blue play first-round matches on the big screens, while the national team mascot, a blue-shirted, soccer-playing bird, leads the cheers.

Marquee matchup: Japan vs. Netherlands, June 19 at 8:30 p.m., for the home country's likely do or die.

Sing-along: Japanese fans are considerate enough to craft chants opponents will understand, as in "Vamos Nippon!" That one just means: "Let's go, Japan!"

Sideline tip: Like in the U.S. (but almost nowhere else in the world), baseball is more popular here than soccer is, so even more intense fans are on tap at the Tokyo Dome during Yomiuri Giants games (1-31-61 Koraku, no phone orders, tickets from $11).

ANY EXCUSE FOR A PARTY


GO TO SOUTH AFRICA!
Tickets to the first-ever World Cup in Africa aren't easy to come by. But you don't need tickets to watch the 64 matches, which are being televised on giant screens in fan parks spread across South Africa, from coastal Cape Town to Polokwane in the wildlife-rich north. You'll toot vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) with locals as you take in the competition.
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