FROM samba stars to sunshine football, whole shanty towns of cliches have clung to the 2014 World Cup finals since it was confirmed the competition would return to Brazil after 64 years.

Five-time winners they may be, but there is only one group of players that has truly come to symbolise the majesty of the Selecao.

And once Brazil got the nod for 2014, evocations of the unforgettable 1970 squad which strode to victory were not short in coming: the goalscoring exploits of Jairzinho; the angled drives of Carlos Alberto; the flawless magic of Pele, who decades later bestrode the successful bid like Christ the Redeemer itself.

Football folk around the globe revelled in visions of the ultimate football experience, a 32-team finals stretching from the shores of the Copacabana to the Amazon Jungle; a month-long feast of round-the-clock sunny-side-up football.

But no sooner had the FIFA carnival hitched up and left town, taking their “sun, sand and soccer" soundbites with them, such idealised visions were quickly replaced by the harsh reality of the physical and economic costs of hosting the games.

Violent clashes marred Brazil’s hosting of the Confederations Cup in July last year and protests of various sizes have persisted across the host cities, while building delays have at times left the suitability of various venues in serious doubt.

It was hardly the kind of vision that the cliche-mongers had in mind, and for all the Brazilians' undoubted ability to put on a party, it has created the kind of societal fissures which are unlikely to be plastered over in time for the big kick-off in Sao Paolo on June 12.

Nevertheless, one senses that the decades of unrivalled glory Brazil has brought to the global game has created a situation whereby the world is willing it to succeed, to lay foundations which could yield more seminal moments such as those seen in 1970.

The onus is on the players themselves, not least a host team for whom even victory will never quite be enough – it is required to go hand in hand with the kind of flair and swagger which has been second-nature to so many generations of Brazilian stars.

Consider the pressure on the likes of Neymar, the Barcelona striker who was integral in his nation’s Confederations Cup success, and who has what it takes to go down with the all-time greats if he can replicate that form on the biggest stage of all.

Such almighty expectation among a football-crazy nation of almost 200 million people can hardly be tempered by the knowledge that if Neymar fails to hit the mark, the noisy neighbours could be the ones to fill his shoes.

Luis Suarez will lead Brazil’s age-old rivals Uruguay into the finals bearing a reputation as one of the most talented and controversial stars in the business, and will no doubt relish the prospect of tormenting the hosts on home soil.

Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi is another World Cup winner waiting to happen, and there is surely nothing worse for the Brazilian nation to countenance than the idea of the man dubbed the ‘New Maradona’ lifting the trophy for Argentina in Rio on July 13.

The European challenge will be headed by holders Spain, Holland, who blazed through the qualification process with nine wins from 10 games, and Portugal, eager to prove they are more than Cristiano Ronaldo’s one-man show.

It would be wrong to imply that a sixth World Cup triumph for the host nation would provide some kind of instant, celebratory solution for the economic woes of those driven to take to the streets to protest the spiralling cost of the finals.

When the World Cup roadshow has left town there will still be those shanty-towns poking up off the hillsides around Rio, just as there will be concerns over guncrime and, ultimately, the arrival of another sporting monolith in the form of the 2016 Olympics.

But there can be no doubt the sight of Neymar and Co lifting the trophy would apply some significant balm. They claimed football came home in 1996.

If that is so then this summer it is heading off on holiday, and only time will tell if it is staying for keeps.