World Cup rosters are being finalized, stadium preparations are in their final stages, and FIFA is understandably sweating out the final 35 days ahead of the world's biggest sporting event.
From now until the tournament begins, CBS will keep you up to date with everything you need to know ahead of the World Cup from injuries, to roster spots, to watermelons. Watermelons? Yes, watermelons.
-- Speaking of the fruit, see if you can guess the three international mega-stars carved by Sau Paulo chef Rogerio Holanda. Answers are at the bottom.
-- One Reuters photographer went inside the Panini factory in Tambore, a suburb of Sau Paulo, to investigate the World Cup stickers being printed ahead of the tournament. The resulting images are well worth a click-through (No. 7, in particular). Here's a small sampling.
-- In more troubling news, despite the proximity of the tournament, FIFA has concerns that Brazil is unprepared to host the World Cup. FIFA's general secretary Jerome Valcke said that soccer's governing body has “been through hell” in dealing with the various political levels of Brazilian government.
“In Brazil, there are certain politicians that are against the World Cup, and the fact is that we've been through hell, essentially, because in Brazil, you have three political levels and there has been a change – there was an election and we're not necessarily talking with the same people.”
-- Is the USMNT planning a final tune-up against tournament-dark horse Belgium? Look closely at Jurgen Klinsmann's white board on the right side.
-- Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named his 23-man roster earlier this week, leaving off notable former stars Kaka and Ronaldinho in lieu of numerous up-and-comers who didn't play in the 2010 World Cup. One of the men selected was defender David Luiz, who made no bones about the pressure he and his teammates are feeling ahead of the country's first tournament there since 1950.
“Of course I feel the pressure,” he told the AP. “There will be big pressure for us because we need to win. That is the truth. That is our life. All the Brazilian people are waiting for that. It is a big pressure but makes us alive and you want that.”
Pressure can certainly elevate an athlete's performance, but don't dismiss the toll that same pressure can take on a player should the result not go as planned. In 1950, Brazilian keeper Moacyr Barbosa was largely used as the scapegoat when the host country lost to Uruguay in the finals in front of 200,000 people, and his life was never the same. ESPN's soccer stories documented his plight, and here's a sampling from that game.
-- Not World Cup related, but important soccer news nonetheless. Second-division French club Clermont Foot hired Helena Costa as its manager. She'll become the first woman to coach a men's professional team in France.
-- Finally, the FIFA world rankings were released on Thursday and the US is 14th. The bad news? Germany is second and Portugal is third. If the US team advances, we'll all know it was no fluke.
ANSWER to pressing watermelon question: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar.