Samba boys lead the football party
Brazil, England Kiwis' hot football favouritesMATT STEWART
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In the absence of the All Whites, Kiwis are getting behind Brazil and England as the football World Cup prepares for kickoff.
Hosts Brazil, who kick off the 32-nation tournament on Friday morning, are the hot favourites with both the TAB and with Kiwi supporters.
The five-time winners of the cup are widely regarded as the most flamboyant practitioners of the beautiful game.
TAB World Cup bookie Gary Pearn said they were followed closely by past winners Argentina and Germany, and defending champions Spain.
The chasing pack includes Belgium, France, Italy, Uruguay and Portugal.
England are rated only as seventh favourites, but are likely to be supported by many Kiwis because of the high number of expats and because of New Zealand's familiarity with the Premier League on television.
Pearn said Australia were "basically cannon fodder".
"The problem for them is they've drawn a crash-hot group", including Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.
Wellington's Four Kings sports bar is seeking a special licence to open for games, some of which start as early as 4am.
Owner Matt McLaughlin said that, because his favourite English Premier League, Everton, featured a trio of Belgian players, he would be gunning for Belgium.
He considered them the "dark horse" of the tournament, who could book a berth in the semifinals.
He expected Kiwis to get behind Brazil because of their "symmetry" with the rugby-dominating All Blacks.
"Brazil are the best team in the world and they always will be. Do they win the World Cup every time? No, they don't, but Brazil's the home of football, and I think Kiwis relate to that."
Four Kings bar manager Geordie Craib said customers turned up to support just about every team at the last World Cup - with the exception of North Korea.
The San Francisco Bath House, The Grand and St Johns bars have also applied for special licences.
St Johns general manager Robert Hill anticipated another round of orange fever as the home base of Dutch support in the capital, after forging a relationship with the Netherlands embassy during the 2010 World Cup.
"The atmosphere was fantastic, and they filled the place up," Hill said.
Fuelled by a Dutch-style breakfast, about 250 Dutch fans packed the bar to watch their team play the final against Spain, losing 1-0 in extra time.
The two sides face each other again in their first group match on Saturday.
- The Dominion Post
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