World Cup countdown

The clock's ticking to the start of the 2014 World Cup and it's now just 25 weeks to kick-off. It might sound like a long time but it really isn't. With that in mind, Sky Sports go around the globe get the best news, views and opinion on the road to Rio. This week, Pele speaks out...

Pele's Pledge

Brazil is engulfed in concerns about its readiness to stage the most iconic sporting event on the planet, the World Cup.

Stadium strike threat

The country's image has taken a battering before the finals amid delayed stadia construction projects, the death of four construction workers, drug-related crime and hooliganism problems.

And Pele, the greatest footballer in history and three-time world champion, has urged his homeland to get serious ahead of next summer. Will Brazil be ready? Click here for more of the thoughts from Pele.

Amazon Plan

Roy Hodgson has revealed that England will travel to Manaus a day earlier than normal ahead of their opening World Cup game with Italy.

The Three Lions' main training base will be in Rio de Janeiro throughout the tournament, from where they will travel to each of their games the day before, with the exception of the game in Manaus where they will make the trip two days ahead of the clash in the Amazon jungle.

To get the full story on Hodgson's battle plans for England,click here.

Orient Express

World Cup diary

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

Shinji Kagawa will be a star attraction in Group C at the World Cup, where the Manchester United man will have high hopes for helping Japan past Colombia, Greece and Ivory Coast. But what sort of kit will Kagawa and his team-mates be wearing when they take on the likes of Radamel Falcao? Take a look at some of the best new outfits for the finals.

All Hope Lost?

Last week, we looked at Kaka's bid to earn a place back among Brazil's main plans in time for the World Cup. This week, it is Argentina's Carlos Tevez whose place at the finals seems unlikely.

Incredibly, given his achievements at club level with Manchester City and now Juventus, Tevez has not played for Argentina since 2011 after falling out of favour under coach Alejandro Sabella. The striker has been in superb form but has admitted: "I do not think my goals can convince Sabella." Read more from Tevez

Be Prepared

If you fancy some air miles, then Brazil is for you next summer. Depending on how the wind blows, flying from the UK to either Rio or Sao Paulo takes between 11 to 12 hours. Unfortunately, you cannot fly direct from the UK to Manaus where England play Italy on 14th June.

Wenger's World Cup prediction

The bad news is that if you arrive in Rio and are catching an internal flight to Manaus, you will be on another plane for the best part of five hours. Manaus is a long, long way away. Brazil is a very big country! Plan your trip. Get into Brazil well before the first match to allow time to catch your breath.

Click here for the in-depth lowdown from our man in Brazil, Geraint Hughes, as he issues advice for England fans planning World Cup trips.

Sky Bet Say...

Lionel Messi is the 7/1 favourite to be the tournament's top scorer but punters are unconvinced by his chances, with rival Cristiano Ronaldo attracting more bets at 14/1. On paper, though, it would appear Portugal face much tougher opposition in the group stages than Argentina, so the 7/1 on Messi may not prove so uninviting after all.

However, with host nation Brazil being the outright favourites (100/30) to lift the trophy, star striker Neymar is perhaps the standout bet at 14/1 to top the scoring charts, and that is how Sky Bet's customers are seeing it - with the Barcelona man taking more bets than any other player.

Argentina's Sergio Aguero, also a 14/1 chance, is the second most popular choice just ahead of Uruguay's Luis Suarez, the bookmakers' 12/1 second favourite. Wayne Rooney is considered England's biggest hope at 50/1 and has had no shortage of backers, though, not as many as Belgium's Romelu Lukaku (22/1). Meanwhile, one Sky Bet customer has £20 riding on Shola Ameobi at 1500/1. To bet on the World Cup, click here.

World Cup Dream

"I see it as a stairway, really. You play good football, then you play for a good team and then you achieve the level where you are invited to play for the Selecao - and then you have a good World Cup."

As he approaches the first anniversary of his move to England, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho is confident a good season at Anfield will earn him a place in next 2014's finals. Read more from the classy playmaker.

Will England qualify from World Cup Group D?

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