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When the 20th FIFA World Cup kicks off in the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil on Thursday June 12 it will be under the watchful eye of more than a billion people. From villages in the farthest corners of the globe to packed cities on all continents, the prospective audience await captivation.
\nThey’ll all be hoping to catch a moment of genius, like the dancing feet of Diego Maradona in 1986, or a moment of madness, such as the when Zinedine Zidane lost and used his head in 2006.
\nThe talking points that will unite and divide living rooms, cafes, nightspots and online forums are as much of a mystery as they are a certainty. Will it be the wizardry of a particular player or the heroics of any one of the competing nations that gets us talking? Will Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Xavi, Van Persie or one of the 731 other players stand out for their on-field heroics?
\nWhatever way, by the time the final whistle goes and the last ball is kicked on Sunday July 13, we will know the answers to all these questions and more. But before then there are many games to be played and stories to be told.
\nJoin in the conversation and catch the match action right here in Dubai. Don’t know where to watch? Check out our pick of the top spots in the city to see the football.
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\nLong-term residents, by which we mean anybody for whom this won’t be their first World Cup, will know this beach bar is a favourite for big games. Forget what you may have seen on international friendlies, league or Champions League games and be prepared for something huge. How big? A fully air-conditioned stadium big enough to host 1,200 people is being constructed and two giant 12 metre wide screens will show every minute of every match. A big-prize raffle, cheerleaders and football freestylers will also perform on game nights although it is likely the usual Barasti buzz will be the main attraction – this is typically the spot for a good sing-song, whichever team you support.
\nLe Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Umm Suqeim (04 318 1313).
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The Irish Village
\nWay over the other side of town but equally famed for raising its game for the big tournament is the sprawling Irish Village. It returns with the air-conditioned tent, The Terraces. Large enough for 1,000 people and with a giant 8m x 4.5m screen it is sure to be one of the livelier venues for key matches. The tent will only open for 2am kick-offs on days when England are playing, so plan a visit carefully if you’re looking for late night fun. There is a two-drink minimum entry fee to The Terraces area but once inside the ‘at-the-match’ ambience extends to authentic grub such as pies, burgers and chips and in the earlier stages \nof the tournament a DJ will play before matches.
\nGarhoud (04 239 5000).
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\nDespite being a newcomer to international football, Skydive Dubai is making a very convincing case for performer of the tournament before a ball has been kicked. Every minute of the event will be broadcast on one of the venue’s 16 TVs (including one giant screen) and the entire area is being redecorated as an ‘ultimate fan zone’. That means a player’s tunnel, adidas and PlayStation areas, footie memorabilia, uniformed staff and themed items on the menu. (We’re not exactly sure why a steak and kidney pie has been renamed as ‘The Defender’ but will let it slide). Throw in spot prizes, competitions and some ambitious entertainment and this first-timer could go all the way.
\nDubai Marina (04 399 0009).
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Atlantis The Palm
\nNo stranger to doing things big, the Palm Jumeirah giant is going massive for the World Cup. N’Dulge is being transformed into a stadium with 18 plasma screens and a giant 6m x 4.5m projector for every match of the tournament. The free entry and 2,000 spectator capacity makes this the biggest screening in town and pre, mid and post game entertainment for the first three weeks of matches are likely to make it a crowd favourite. Look out for resident DJs as well as spot prizes.
\nPalm Jumeirah (04 426 0000).
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Emirates Golf Club
\nSometimes forgotten in the course of a year but always one of the very best spots to see major sports tournaments the Emirates Golf Club is pulling out the stops again with its Ultimate World Cup Theatre. The stage will be set with 21 screens (including two large) but it is the peripherals that make Football Central, as they like to call it, stand out. As well as every match and early door opening there is entertainment including PlayStation tournament, adidas shooting practice and a great selection of sharing snack platters. Book a table to guarantee a space and expect it to be lively but refined.
\nEmirates Hills (04 380 1234).
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\nNo dedicated fan zone means it might be business as usual for the Habtoor Grand’s subterranean sports bar. The good news is that means good service, a loyal and spirited crowd and plenty of places to see the action unfold. Sixteen screens (two large) are liberally dotted around a venue that also has pooltables and dartboards for mid- match competition. The early stages of the tournament will see house band Jet Lag, play between games and an ongoing ‘predict the champions’ tournament could see you pick up prizes from the hotel.
\nThe Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 408 4221).
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\nIf the winner of Time Out Dubai’s best sports bar of 2014 can keep its domestic season form across the World Cup, we can confirm it as a tournament favourite. Little touches such as the commentary in the toilets (you will never miss a moment of the action), 20 well-placed screens and a commitment to showing every match make it one of the go-to spots in the DIFC area. A small fan zone has been promised but as long as it keeps up its usual high standards we’ll be happy.
\nDubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (800 6247).
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\nDesigned not with scuffed carpets and replica shirts but a style more reminiscent of a 1980s space opera, the JW Marriott Marquis hangout is a new breed of sports bar. A Dhs50 entry fee is redeemable against a ‘free’ drink and access to seven screens (including four huge 109inch LEDS) in the futuristic environment. While the design is high concept promotions are spot on with themed food depending on the teams playing (fish and chips for England, patatas bravas for Spain, veal sausage for Germany etc) spot prizes for correctly predicting score and even ladies’ night deals for Thursday matches.
\nJW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000).
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XL Beach Club
\nAnother nightlife regular giving itself a footie makeover in the emirate, the al fresco poolside club will have an air conditioned area big enough for 1,000 fans. Whether these will be the venue’s usual crowd of dressed-up party folk or a more traditional footie audience remains to be seen but it is likely that the on site cheerleaders and DJ during the early stages of the tournament will get everybody excited. As will a tournament-long prize draw and giveaways in front of 11 TVs, including one main giant screen.
\nThe Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (056 640 6161).
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\nDoubling the size of the garden and creating an expanded air-conditioned zone is a clear sign this London Transport themed bar plans to go the distance, no matter how long the Three Lions survive. Thirteen screens and a lucky dip promotion will keep punters engaged even if matches are short on goals. The Dhs50 entry fee will include a voucher for one free drink and if the 1,000 capacity crowd are as happy as they have been at previous events it could be a great choice for England supporters looking to make some noise.
\nAl Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 321 1111).
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Rock Bottom, Bur Dubai
\nIf you’re only semi-interested in the football but still want a big night out, this Old Dubai stalwart might be worth a look. It is showing all the games on 14 screens but managing to keep normal service as well. Four areas will be created to view games but only one will stream commentary. Elsewhere, until Ramadan, the band will play before and during matches and there will be chances to win prizes all through the tournament.
\nRegent Palace Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 396 3888).
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\nMore like an electronics dealership than a bar, this nightspot has 40 televisions (including a pair of 107 inch LCDs) lined up and ready to broadcast. There really can be no excuse to miss a single second but if you do manage to drag your eyes away from it all then the Predict and Win competition and Pick The Winner contests offer enough activity to make this a decent option for base camp for Bur Dubai residents during the tournament.
\nRamee Royal Hotel, Karama (04 334 4088).
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YOTS Sport Lounge
\nFor a more low key approach, the Dubai Marina Yacht Club’s sports lounge is a noble option. It won’t be showing games past midnight but study the fixture list carefully and you will find lots of great 8pm kick offs and the six screens (one large) and fancy Dubai Marina setting might make this a more intimate option. We also love the lucky player draw that sees every guest assigned a player on arrival and given the chance to win a free drink if their player scores. Combined with plentiful drinks deals and high scoring games it could be a cheap night.
\nDubai Marina Yacht Club, Dubai Marina (04 362 7900).
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The Majlis at DWTC
\nTry a complete change of pace and watch football at the Dubai World Trade Centre’s summer majlis. A 1,000 capacity arena is being constructed in what is being billed as one of the city’s largest indoor shisha lounges. The fully catered room has numerous screens and the opportunity to watch games in a very different environment should appeal. Best of all it is just a minute’s walk away from Dubai Sports World.
\nDubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Saeed Hall 3 (04 308 6322).
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\nSince opening, this Meydan joint has been calling itself the new home of sport in Dubai and this is an opportunity to step into the limelight. The central attraction, literally and figuratively, is a giant cube-like screen (four screens actually) in the middle of the bar. The high-resolution projectors are some of the most advanced in the city and guarantee views anywhere in the room, although 16 other plasma screens dotted around give options, too. No particular World Cup gimmicks are lined up yet but for straightforward football watching, it is a safe option.
\nThe Meydan Hotel, Nad Al Sheba (04 381 3780).
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\nThe Madinat Jumeirah is foregoing a fan zone for this tournament but BarZar still looks a good option for any match you care to turn up for. The sporty credentials are sometimes overlooked but with nine large screens, a projector and masses of drink and food deals it is likely to be one of the classier spots to take in a game or two. The venue is affiliated with adidas for the duration of the tournament so look out for spot prizes and freebies.
\nMadinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6197).
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\nTrust Dubai’s pre-eminent ping pong bar to have come up with one of the most anticipated World Cup packages. An air-conditioned tent with shisha and themed match-by-match decorations, cash prize draws and 20 screens make this an interesting proposition. Correctly guessing the score could see you walk away with up to Dhs1,000 in cash and the early stages of the tournament will have musical accompaniment from a house band.
\nWafi, Oud Metha (04 370 7707).
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D & A
\nThe recently re-imagined Dhow and Anchor pub looks likely to maintain its stranglehold on a football audience. We like the fact that there is set to be a competitive element with both table football and PlayStation tournaments taking place during match half-time. Five televisions are being added to the existing quota of three, meaning it will step up from the domestic season of football. A special menu of gourmet mid-game goodies is also promised, making this a tempting option.
\nJumeirah Beach Hotel, Umm Suqeim (04 406 8999).
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\nDubai’s best pub (as chosen by Time Out Dubai at the 2014 Nightlife Awards) is another no-brainer for watching matches. Unfortunately it will not stay open for the very latest kick-offs but has a proven track record in showing live sport with a great atmosphere. The eight screens are thoughtfully placed for optimum viewing and a special World Cup menu make this a solid choice if you’re in the Satwa/Jumeirah 1 area.
\nDubai Marine Beach Resort, Jumeirah 1 (04 346 1111).
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\nMedia One has carved a niche for itself as a smart yet down-to-earth spot with fun promotions. We’re most intrigued by the life-size pool table where we’re promised we can head balls into pockets as well as games and activities from PlayStation and adidas. Twenty screens will be ample to see the matches unfold and if your team is on the wrong end of a beating, a set menu of comfort food is offered to ease the pain. For the footie-mad, Level 9 will also replay all the matches from the day before, so you can relive the best and the worst of the tournament.
\nMedia One Hotel, Dubai Media City (04 427 1000).