It may be nicknamed the "beautiful game," but these days it can sometimes be hard to see soccer as anything but ugly.

As well as all the usual cliches about preening, overpaid prima donnas, there are also the persistent, disturbing bouts of racism and intolerance that continue to blight the sport. In the domestic leagues, countrymen come to blows over geographical divides and historical rivalries in scenes that are closer t>o something you'd find in "Game of Thrones" than "Match of the Day."

And yet, for one glorious month every four years, it feels as if soccer deserves its nickname. The magnitude of the World Cup — and the collective optimism it inspires — transcends any petty tribalism: Uruguayans will spend the next fortnight obsessing over the fitness of Luis Suarez, Borussia Dortmund fans will declare a temporary truce with their Bayern Munich counterparts as they get behind the German team (just don't mention Robert Lewandowski) and England supporters will hope that Alan Hansen's maxim, "You can't win anything with kids" will again be proven wrong.