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One of the planet’s biggest sporting spectacles kicks off in earnest Thursday, when the 20th FIFA World Cup gets under way in Sao Paulo with a match between the host, Brazil, and Croatia.

Over the next 4 1/2 weeks, worldwide productivity will decline, workplace absenteeism will skyrocket and the victorious nation will, on average, outperform the world economy by 3.5 per cent in the first month following the tournament’s conclusion on July 13.

Here’s a by-the-numbers primer to get you up to speed on what is, next to the Summer Olympics, the world’s second-most-watched sporting event:

4 billion

Amount, in U.S. dollars, expected to be generated in revenue for world soccer’s governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, by the 2014 World Cup – 66 per cent more than four years ago in South Africa.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (R) and Secretary General Jerome Valcke listen to a journalist's question during the media conference after the 65th FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo, June 11, 2014. (Paulo Whitaker/REUTERS)

2 billion

Profit, in U.S. dollars, that FIFA is expected to collect from the 2014 World Cup.

909 million

Worldwide viewers that tuned in for at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final, where a single goal by Andres Iniesta was enough to claim a first title for Spain at the expense of the Netherlands.

3.3 million

Fans expected to attend the 64 matches comprising the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, up from 3.2 million in South Africa.

Thousands gather in downtown Toronto to watch the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands on July 11, 2010. (Darren Calabrese/THE CANADIAN PRESS)


Per cent of Canadians who will follow at least some of the World Cup on television, online and through social media. Thirty-two per cent will follow it “very/somewhat closely” according to a recent survey by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group.


Teams in the tournament. As host, Brazil qualified automatically. The other 31 nations were whittled down from 203 by playing a total of 820 matches over the course of three years to determine the finalists. They have been divided into a round robin consisting of eight groups of four, from which the top two in each qualify for the last 16. From that point on, the format changes to a straight knockout, with extra time and the dreaded penalty shootout being used if teams cannot decide a winner over the course of 90 minutes.


The number of times that Brazil has been in the World Cup, the only nation to appear in every single tournament since the first one was held in Uruguay in 1930.


Career World Cup finals goals scored by former Brazilian striker Ronaldo, the all-time record.

Germany's national soccer player Miroslav Klose warms up during a training session in Santo Andre near Porto Seguro, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Germany will play in group G of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (Matthias Schrader/AP)


Career World Cup goals scored so far by German striker Miroslav Klose, who needs just one more goal this time around to equal Ronaldo’s record.


Goals scored by France’s Just Fontaine in the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, the record for a single tournament.


Stadiums being used in the World Cup – up two from four years ago in South Africa. They range in size from the 41,456-seat Arena da Baixada in Curitiba in the south of the country, to the 76,804 capacity of Rio de Janeiro’s Estadio do Maracana, down significantly from the 210,000 that crammed into the venue for the final of the 1950 World Cup (which was also the last time Brazil played host). A total of $3.5-billion (U.S.) has been spent building stadiums and refurbishing others, including a whopping $900-million on the new venue in Brasilia, making it the second most expensive soccer stadium in the world, behind only Wembley in London.

England's John Terry, right, and Italy's Antonio Cassano go for a header during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between England and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, June 24, 2012. (Michael Sohn/AP)


Different teams that have won previous World Cups (Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France and defending champion Spain). Saturday’s match between England and Italy is one of the most widely anticipated of the tournament, and with Uruguay also featuring in that group, at least one former champion is destined to fall by the wayside early on.


Record number of times Brazil has won the tournament, most recently in 2002 in Japan/South Korea. It is widely expected to add a sixth crown this year, with British-based bookmakers Ladbrokes and Paddy Power installing it as 3-to-1 favourite.


World Cups won by Italy, most recently in 2006, second only to Brazil.

In this June 21, 1970 file photo, Brazil's Pele, centre is hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates after Brazil won the World Cup soccer final against Italy, 4-1, in Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, Mexico. On this day: Perhaps the most glorious day in Brazil’s World Cup history. Its third World Cup triumph against a strong Italian side meant it kept the Jules Rimet trophy for good. (The Associated Press)


World Cups won by Brazilian legend Pele, the only player to claim three titles. Lionel Messi of Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. of Brazil – widely thought of as the best players in this tournament – are all aiming to secure their first.


World Cups won by German legend Franz Beckenbauer, the only man to both captain and coach a World Cup-winning team.

Canada's soccer team in their first-ever appearance in the World Cup finals. Canada's team - Back Row (left to right): Bob Lenarduzzi, Randy Ragan, Randy Samuel, Ian Bridge, Igor Vrablic, George Pakos. Front row: Carl Valentine, Paul James, Tino Lettieri, Bruce Wilson, David Norman. (Handout)


The lone time Canada has qualified for the World Cup, back in 1986 in Mexico. It lost all three games it played, failing to score a single goal.