In South Africa, where they are still fiercely debating the merits of hosting a World Cup that proved they could deliver on the global stage but left behind under-utilised stadiums and concerns over whether it was worth the huge investment, the official slogan was "Celebrate Africa's Humanity". In Brazil in exactly one year's time, it will be "All in one rhythm".

For much of the build-up the mood music has been anything but harmonious. Yet for the commercial apparatus already starting to crank into gear, likely to be even more to the fore than ever in a country that wants to underline its place in the new world economic order, the images will be of sunshine, samba and barefoot beach football.

The media machine that earned Fifa $3.5bn in the four-year cycle leading up to South Africa 2010, representing 87% of its total revenues for the period, and will comfortably surpass that for the first South American tournament since 1978, will rev up for what will be billed as the best ever World Cup. But all the marketing soft soap in the world will not hide the fact that for the vast majority of Brazilians seeing a World Cup match in the flesh is likely to remain nothing but a pipe dream. The Brazilian sports minister, Aldo Rebelo, said this week: "The price of tickets is expensive and way beyond the means of many of our poorest citizens."

He said that as a result of representations Fifa had agreed to donate 50,000 free tickets to "poor and indigenous" communities. Fifa has also promised to learn the lessons of South African, where a lack of local knowledge and a sales process geared to the international market led to a frantic late push to sell tickets and empty seats at early group matches. But those 50,000 free tickets, of a likely 3.3m overall, will not on their own deflect the criticisms – especially when 450,000 highly priced hospitality tickets are already on offer, with the agency selling them under pressure to make up for underperformance in South Africa. The general ticket prices for Brazil are due to be unveiled on 1 July.

That will reanimate all the arguments, perhaps more virulently than ever, over the relationship between Fifa and the countries to which it bequeaths its greatest prize. It is an argument exacerbated in fast-changing countries like Brazil when fixed deadlines and the glare of the world's spotlight throw up issues such as Amnesty's protests against favela dwellers being forcibly evicted to make way for infrastructure projects.

The criticism of Fifa's model has always been that it banks the financial upside from TV and marketing income while allowing the host country to take the strain and risk of infrastructure investment in return for bathing in the eyes of the world. In Zurich Fifa now sits on a cash pile of $1.4bn (£898.4m).

Romário, the former Brazil striker turned MP who has become the nation's footballing conscience, summed up the argument in a recent programme for the BBC World Service. "Fifa comes here and sets up a state within our state and it will leave with $2bn-$3bn in profits. And then what? What about the white elephants, the stadiums, costing nearly $2bn?" he said.

"That could have been spent on education and health – much more important for our country. The best for Brazil is to have the World Cup but there are some contractual obligations between Fifa and the host nation that we can't accept."

The relationship between Fifa and the local organising committee has been fractious, marked on one side by a nervousness about Brazil's ability to deliver and on the other by a sense that the governing body cares little for what is left behind once its travelling circus leaves town.

Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, told the Guardian this week: "The World Cup has nothing to do with legacy. Fifa don't care what happens to a city but the IOC do. For Fifa it is just 'how is the pitch?'"

The World Cup has sparked not only the usual wave of concern about locals being priced out, a feature of every major sporting event across the world but exacerbated in nations with a large gap between rich and poor, but very real worries that it will accelerate the gentrification of Brazilian football in general. "We do worry that the 'elitisation' of soccer in Brazil may happen after the World Cup due to the price of the tickets that will be charged after the events are over in the new arenas being built," said Rebelo.

In South Africa large swaths of the population adopted an advertising slogan – "Can You Feel It? It is Here!" – to describe their pride. In Soweto and Khayelitsha, children would run up and excitedly bellow it in your face. But inside the stadiums, and even in the Fifa-sanctioned fanparks, the atmosphere was too often corporate and sterile.

There is another factor at play. Fifa desperately needs to the Brazilian World Cup to be a celebration of the beautiful game, justifying all the rhetoric and marketing dollars.

For all that South Africa was a logistical success, confounding the naysayers who said it would be crime ridden and badly organised, the fatigued players on show didn't exactly lead to the feast of football promised.

A repeat in Brazil would deal another blow to the World Cup's status as the pinnacle of football. Nor does it look likely that the host nation, who recently slumped to 22nd in the Fifa rankings, will be epoch-defining form.

With two other logistically challenging World Cups on the horizon in Russia and Qatar, Fifa desperately needs Brazil 2014 to deliver on and off the pitch but does not seem prepared to compromise the money-making properties of its cash cow to ensure it does so.