World Cup countdown

The clock's ticking to the start of the 2014 World Cup and it's now just 26 weeks to kick-off. It might sound like a long time but it really isn't. With that in mind, Sky Sports will go around the globe on a weekly basis to get the best news, views and opinion on the road to Rio...

Welcome to the jungle

World Cup diary

Sky Sports provides a guide for subscribing to our World Cup dates for your diary

From reports of crime-riddled streets to speculation about lethal wildlife, England's first World Cup venue of Manaus is under the spotlight.

As an urban pouch in the centre of the Amazonian jungle, the city has become one of the most-talked about places on the planet and most of the discussion has been far from complimentary. But when the finals actually arrive in June next year, the scaremongering will end and it will be one of the hottest tickets in sport. Click here to read more as we look at a city which is promising to 'dazzle' the planet.

Draw lowdown

Brazil's host cities may be getting ready but who exactly will England be facing? After last Friday's draw, England know their opponents having been placed in Group D along with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.

England fans guide

It could have been a lot worse but it is far from a straightforward scenario for Roy Hodgson's men, particularly that an opening game against Italy in Manaus at the rearranged time of 11pm on June 14th, 2014 BST.

What do we know about England's opponents? Where are the dangers and how did Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica all qualify? To get the key details and the opinion of our expert pundits, click here.

Don't write off Spain

The defending champions kick off their bid to defend the trophy on 13th June against the Netherlands in a repeat of the 2010 final, with Chile and Australia are the other two sides in Group B.

World Cup predictions

The team finishing second in the group will then meet the winners of Group A, which is expected to be host nation Brazil. It is therefore a far from straightforward process for Spain.

But goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, the man who lifted the World Cup in 2010, has said of his nation's potential for defending their crown: "We can promise that we will make a huge effort, we will be up for it and we are full of hope that we can do it." Read more on Spain's chances.

Remember me?

Can Kaka rediscover his best in time to get a place in Brazil's squad for their home World Cup? The 2007 World Player of the Year has admitted he will need to keep performing well for AC Milan if he is to get the chance next summer.

Now at the age of 31, playmaker Kaka recognises that he is unlikely to still be in the international reckoning in 2018 and is desperate to take a spot in manager Luiz Felipe Scolari's plans. He has impressed since returning to Milan from Real Madrid in September but can he maintain his form? Get the full details on Kaka's thoughts.

Messi's seal of approval

"My first impression of the ball is that it is really good. The design is different, with lots of colours. I have had the opportunity to test Brazuca and it is great." High praise indeed from Lionel Messi no less for the adidas 'Brazuca', which will be the official match ball at the World Cup. The Brazuca, which means 'Brazilian' and refers to the Brazilian way of life, was launched in Rio de Janeiro last week at a star-studded ceremony which included appearances from the likes of Brazilian legend Cafu and former Netherlands international Clarence Seedorf. Take a closer look at the launch of the Brazuca.

Sky Bet say...

"While the group looks difficult, we haven't pushed England's price out too much given the second-round draw is favourable, with Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C"

Sky Bet

Quotes of the week

England drifted from 25/1 to 28/1 to win the World Cup in the outright market following what was considered an unfavourable draw.

Roy Hodgson's men are 4/7 to qualify for the knockout stages and third favourites at 2/1 to win Group D, with Italy marginally favoured at 7/4, Uruguay 15/8 and Costa Rica the outsiders at 14/1.

Hosts Brazil remain outright favourites at 100/30 while Argentina (9/2) and Germany (5/1) follow, with holders Spain being pushed out from 11/2 to 7/1 after being placed in arguably the toughest group with the Netherlands, Chile and Australia. To bet on England, click here.

Race against time

There are growing concerns that the new stadium in Sao Paulo, scene of a fatal accident two weeks ago, will not be ready for the start of the World Cup.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter raised more than a few eyebrows when he admitted there were no alternative arrangements in place, just yet, in Sao Paulo, telling a news conference: "For the time being, there's no plan B."

Will Sao Paulo be ready?

The new 65,000-capacity arena will not be finished until April 15, less than eight weeks before the World Cup opening ceremony. It is not only a construction site but an accident site. Investigators continue to gather evidence where two workers were killed in November after a crane collapsed. Sky Sports' Chief News Reporter Bryan Swanson has been on location to find out more.

Dress to impress

What will the countries be wearing in Brazil next summer? Kit manufacturers have already started producing their World Cup kits, with the hosts, France, Argentina and Germany strutting their stuff in cool, new outfits. Take a peek at the likes of Neymar, Messi and Ozil modelling the clothing they hope will carry their nations to glory next summer.

Will England qualify from World Cup Group D?

  • Yes - as group winners
  • Yes - as group runners-up
  • No - it's an early plane home