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The best smartphone apps for following World Cup 2014

The big event starts Thursday. But unless you're going to be in Brazil, here's a handy list of apps you'll need to track your favorite teams and keep up with the action.

The World Cup starts Thursday, June 12 in Brazil and runs until July 13, with 64 matches of football (soccer, in American-ese) to follow. People from around the world are already heading to Rio and the 11 other cities in the country hosting the games. But not everyone can make the journey.

If you want to keep track of scores on the go, watch live games, or just get into the spirit of the World Cup tournament by playing soccer on your smartphone, I've collected some apps that will help get you revved up for the main event.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET


Free: iOS, Android

It was pretty new to smartphones for the last World Cup, but watching live games is a much better experience on WatchESPN these days. With this app, you can keep track of the schedule, watch live games on the go, and check out highlights and analysis from ESPN.

It's important to note that this app will only work in the United States, and you'll need to be a cable subscriber who already gets ESPN to watch games. As a special bonus, those who own the Chromecast dongle can watch the games on television.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Brazil 2014 - World Cup

Free: iOS Only

If you can't get to a television (or can't use the WatchESPN app above), this app is the next best thing. With Brazil 2014 World Cup, you can check out the schedule, look at lineups, get live results as they happen, and even get stadium and city information.

After a match, you can check player statistics and track red and yellow cards. The app will also send you push notifications so you won't miss a thing.

Android users should try: FIFA World Cup 2014.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET


Free: iOS, Android

The FIFA games are the best sports games on smartphones -- period. The latest version is better than ever. As a "freemium" game, FIFA 14 lets you play only the online matchmaking, penalty shootout, and Ultimate Team game modes. But for $4.99 you can unlock Tournaments, Manager Mode, and Kick Off, the single-game exhibition mode. It was $6.99 for FIFA 13 last year, so it's easy to recommend you just pay the $4.99 for an even better game this year.

Featuring 33 leagues, over 600 licensed teams, and more than 16,000 players, FIFA 14 is in a league by itself when it comes to sports game. Pair that with tight gameplay, beautiful graphics, and smooth player animations, and this game is tough to beat.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Final Kick

Free: iOS Only

Final Kick is a recent discovery for me, but offers the best graphics I've seen for penalty shootouts. You get amazingly realistic graphics and animations as you square off against the opposing goalie in the final fight of a soccer game. You also get to try your luck making the big save against your opponents with a perfectly timed swipe on your goalie.

What's really fun about Final Kick is you can go up against other players in real time with a quick matching system. But if you don't have a connection, there are also offline matches against players from the 100 hottest teams.

Android users should try: Perfect Kick.