World Cup 2014: Opening ceremony pays tribute to nature, people and football
FIFA’s World Cup 2014 begins today with Brazil opening the tournament against Croatia.
The month-long tournament sees 32 nations compete for a place in the final in Rio on Sunday, July 13.
The opening match will be preceded by a ceremony in Sao Paulo that pays tribute to nature, people and football.
Last year more than a million people took to the streets of major Brazilian cities to protest against what they see as excessive spending on the World Cup.
Brazil’s government is keen to prevent a repeat of some of the violence seen at those protests, and President Dilma Rousseff has said she will not allow violent demonstrations to mar the World Cup.
Thousands of extra police and soldiers will be deployed to ensure the matches get under way smoothly.
Hosts Brazil start as favorites to win the World Cup for a sixth time, while holders Spain are aiming to win a fourth major tournament in a row after winning the European Championships two years ago.
The other seeded teams are Colombia, Uruguay, Switzerland, Argentina, Germany and Belgium.
The host nation have never lost their opening World Cup game, with the previous 20 opening games producing 14 victories and six draws for the hosts.
A capacity 65,000 crowd is expected for the match, with their journey to the stadium eased after metro workers voted not to resume a strike over pay and the dismissal of 42 colleagues.
The host city for the opening ceremony had been braced for considerable disruption after traffic chaos was caused by a five-day stoppage earlier in the week.
As one problem eased another began, however, with airport workers in Brazil’s second largest city Rio de Janeiro announcing a 24-hour strike starting at midnight on Wednesday, meaning industrial action will continue through the opening day of the World Cup.
FIFA said it had sold more than 2.9 million tickets, but they were still available for several matches on Wednesday, including some involving Germany, Italy and France.