Why you should care
Because these nations who are still in the running have some pretty interesting stuff going down off the pitch, too.
The World Cup is down to the quarterfinals stage — which means eight countries are still in the running for the world soccer champion title. But even if you’re not paying much attention to the beautiful game’s biggest contest, there are some fascinating stories behind the nations themselves. Here are OZY’s best bits about the countries still in the game.
The country led by the mighty Joachim Löw is getting ready to face France. But what many might not know is that Germany — the country that brought us Mercedes, Audi and BMW — is attracting attention (and millions of American dollars) for its cutting-edge medical care. Such advances have caused a huge boom in the number of medical tourists traveling to Germany, nicknamed “the hospital of Europe.” Just ask a professional athlete. For those whose bodies are their livelihoods, Germany is the medical destination of choice. The country’s recent advances in medicine and medical technology are nothing short of astounding. Read the story here.
Entrepreneurs take note: Brazil is a hotbed for startup spirit. A ways south of the Rio Grande, some of Latin America’s biggest cities are starting to buzz with the same enterprising fervor that the Bay Area is famous for. Since the early 2000s, Brazil’s economy had been riding a growing economic wave, thanks largely to reforms led by its former Socialist president, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The nation has established a wave of startup incubators — and its middle-class market is ready for what they have to offer — and the venture capital to get them going isn’t far behind. (But is Brazil’s big-business spirit going to help them win over Colombia?) Read the story here.
By 2050, around 70 percent of the world’s populaton will live in cities. But in most cases, those living in the slums and skyscrapers don’t mingle. Colombia has been tackling this challenge head-on, making big moves in cities like Bogotá to integrate the poor into the urban bloodstream (instead of shunting them from sight). The poster child for “inclusive-city” efforts is Medellín, where a 1,300-foot escalator links hillside shanties with the city’s commercial center. Credited with fostering the city’s renaissance, it is the centerpiece of a transport network and a living metaphor besides: a ladder from poverty to economic opportunity. Read the story here.
In December 1948, Costa Rica abolished its national army. And 65 years later, the decision seems visionary. Unlike its neighbors in Central America, the nation hasn’t suffered a coup d’état in more than six decades. Demilitarization inoculated the country against a civil war and from being a pawn in anyone’s Cold War strategy — and to this day, Costa Rican leaders use its absence of a military to shame territorial aggrandizers. Instead of guns, Costa Rica invested in education and eco-tourism, the story goes, and now huge swaths of the nation are pristine. The country also ranks first in some “happiness” indexes. (But let’s see how happy they are after they face off with Netherlands in their upcoming quarterfinal match.) Read the story here.
Electric cars have supposedly been the future of transport for decades, but most of us still don’t use them. Prices have dropped and designs have improved, but the transition is hampered by an infrastructural chicken-and-egg problem: What comes first, cars or charging stations? The answer, surprisingly, may come from the Netherlands — where they are shifting out of idle and into drive with a plan to create the world’s densest fast-charging network for electric vehicles (EV). The aim? To entice drivers to switch over to electric while providing more options to those who already have. Read the story here.