More than 60,000 fans will be in Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena, including 12 heads of state, and around one billion people are expected to watch the opening ceremony and match between Brazil and Croatia on TV.

The 25-minute ceremony will feature more than 600 artists, including acrobatic gymnasts, trampolinists, martial arts-style capoeira performers and stilt walkers.

"The opening ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people football," Belgian artistic director Daphne Cornez said. She said one of her goals was to showcase the diversity of the sprawling South American country of 200 million people.

The centre of the show will be a giant LED ball made up of more than 90,000 light clusters. But that will be one of the few large-scale technical wonders, since Cornez and team were under orders to avoid placing too much strain on the pitch where Brazil and Croatia will face off.

There will be no political speeches this year, not even from Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, though messages of peace from Pope Francis and other religious leaders will be read out as doves are released.

READ MORE ON 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP

The event begins on Thursday as hosts Brazil open the tournament against Croatia. The national teams of 31 countries advanced through qualification competitions that began in June 2011 to participate with the host nation Brazil in the final tournament. A total of 64 matches are to be played in twelve cities across Brazil.

The most powerful moment may come when a paraplegic, whose identity has been kept secret, gives the first kick to Brazuca, the official World Cup ball, by donning an Iron Man-like robotic suit controlled by brain signals.

Paraplegic in 'Iron Man' bodysuit to open World Cup

The first kick at the World Cup opening ceremony will be made by a paraplegic wearing an Iron Man-like robotic bodysuit controlled by signals from the brain. Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis led a team of 156 scientists from around the world to create the futuristic exoskeleton, which was designed to enable paralysis victims to walk.

At the World Cup opening ceremony on Thursday in Sao Paulo, a paraplegic whose identity has been kept secret will leave behind his or her wheelchair to take to the pitch in the suit and give the tournament's first kick.

Electronic circuits in the device's "feet" will send a return signal to the user via an artificial skin worn on the arm, conveying the sensation of movement and contact.

READ MORE: Brazil put controversies aside ahead of Croatia clash

"It's the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity and offered feedback to the patients," Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University, said.

"Doing a demonstration in a stadium is something very much outside our routine in robotics. It's never been done before,” he said.

Jennifer Lopez to perform at opening ceremony

Pop superstar Jennifer Lopez will perform at the World Cup opening ceremony after all, FIFA said, two days after it announced "production issues" would prevent her traveling to Brazil. Lopez, who recorded the official World Cup song, "We Are One," with rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte, will perform it with them and Brazilian drumming collective Olodum as originally planned at Thursday's kick-off.

"FIFA and the Local Organizing Committee are delighted to announce that we will have the full line-up of stars. The performance by Pitbull, Claudia Leitte, Jennifer Lopez and Olodum will be the climax of the ceremony," it said in a statement.

More than 60,000 people will be in Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena to watch the ceremony and kick-off match between Brazil and Croatia. Around a billion people are expected to tune in on TV worldwide.

Seven teams to have top-level security

Seven out of the 32 teams which will play in the FIFA World Cup will have the highest level of security available. Brazilian Intelligence Agency Abin's assistant director Ronaldo Belham said that the United States is among the teams included in this special protection level. Belham did not disclose the name of the other six teams. Security for the Brazilian team is also high. The hotel in which the Brazilian squad will be staying in Sao Paulo, prior to the opening match, is being protected by a tight security scheme with the participation of the local and federal police, Army and private security guards.

Google Doodle marks start of 20th FIFA World Cup

Google came up with an interactive doodle on its homepage to mark the start of the FIFA World Cup 2014. You are greeted with a colourful doodle and you visit the search engine's homepage. The doodle shows a football bouncing into the centre of the screen and then the letters start popping up and down with an animated view of the 'soccer' city.

Five new technologies

The 2014 World Cup will represent the first time that goal-line technology has been used at football's showpiece event, but technological advances will also shape the tournament in other ways.

Here are the five new technologies that will aid players, officials and fans during the competition, which starts on Thursday:

Vanishing foam

In a bid to prevent teams from illegally gaining ground at free-kicks, referees at the tournament will be armed with small canisters of vanishing foam. The biodegradable white substance will be sprayed on the pitch to mark where free-kicks should be taken from and the 10-yard distance that the opposition's defensive wall must observe. Known as Aero Comex Futline, the substance dissolves within a minute. "Players respect it," says Australian referee Ben Williams. "It's a great innovation and I'm looking forward to using it," he said.

The 'Twitterwall'

The German Football Federation (DFB) has installed a specially designed 'Twitterwall' at the Germany team's hotel near Porto Seguro in the eastern Brazilian state of Bahia. Using the hashtag #aneurerseite (#onyourside), supporters can send picture messages encouraging the team that will be displayed on the wall for the players to see. A similar idea was used at Frankfurt airport before the squad flew out to Brazil.

WhatsApp

Uruguay's players have been keeping in touch with each other prior to the tournament by using the WhatsApp instant messaging service on their smartphones. Striker Edinson Cavani revealed that he and his team-mates used the app to share their thoughts on the World Cup draw, which saw the South American champions paired with England, Italy and Costa Rica. "It was a bit like 'Oh, Italy! Oh, England!'" Cavani told Britain's FourFourTwo magazine. "That messaging group is great for keeping us in contact because we're playing all around the world and we can support each other. In that moment, it went crazy!"

Ultra High Definition television

The 2014 World Cup will be the first tournament to be partly captured in Ultra High Definition (UHD), which boasts a resolution approximately four times higher than conventional High Definition television and requires a satellite network capable of handling 100 megabits of data per second. The tournament is seen as a trial run for the technology, which is not yet widely available.

iPads

England's players have each been equipped with iPads containing personalised information about their group-stage opponents. The Football Association has designed a scouting app that allows Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and their team-mates to access personal data and video footage of the specific opponents they will come up against at the tournament. England have also been using heat chambers and wearing extra layers of clothing in training in a bid to replicate the humid conditions in the Amazonian city of Manaus, where they will play Italy on Saturday.

Superheroes at FIFA World Cup

Cristiano Ronaldo

This is the season that Ronaldo has eclipsed Lionel Messi. His scintillating form has seen him snatch the coveted Ballon d'Or from his arch-rival besides taking Real Madrid to the Champions League and the Copa del Rey titles. He even scored a hat-trick against Sweden to help Portugal make it to the World Cup in the first place. And now the onus will be on him to help the Iberian side win their first World Cup ever.

Wayne Rooney

He has never scored for England in a World Cup encounter — this fact is likely to be topmost on Wayne Rooney's mind when he takes the pitch for the Three Lions' clash against Italy on Sunday. In fact, Rooney's World Cup appearances have often been mired in controversy — the temperamental striker was sent off against Portugal in 2006 and lashed out at England fans four years later. This time around, controversy has followed him to Brazil before the event has even begun, thanks to calls from Paul Scholes and Gary Lineker that he be dropped from the starting XI.

Lionel Messi

The Argentine forward has endured an uncharacteristically barren season with Barcelona and will be keen to make amends with his national side. Messi would also like to put to bed once and for all the accusation that he is just not the same player in a La Albiceleste jersey.

Neymar

According to Brazil forward Fred, their strategy at the World Cup will be to pass the ball to Neymar when they run out of ideas on a difficult day. The forward, who had a mixed first season with Barcelona, will be carrying the hopes of millions of Brazilians at the World Cup.

Luis Suarez

Although the Uruguay striker is recuperating from a knee injury, coach Oscar Tabarez might be tempted to give him a run against Costa Rica and England as even a half-fit Suarez is a terrifying prospect for defenders. It is an endorsement of just how good Suarez is that he is still the main striker in a side that boasts of attackers like Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani. Suarez, who ended last season as EPL's top scorer with 31 goals, can single-handedly tear apart defences when in the mood.

Andrea Pirlo

Despite his age, 35-year-old Andrea Pirlo will be the one player opposition midfields will be eager to contain in Brazil. In fact, England boss Roy Hodgson is said to be contemplating using a player to man-mark Pirlo when the two sides meet on Sunday (newspapers believe Wayne Rooney will be asked to do this job). Hodgson's tactics are justified, considering that the last time the two sides met in a major competition (the quarter-finals of Euro 2012) Pirlo put together more passes than England's entire midfield quartet.

A look at all-time FIFA World Cup records

Most World Cup wins

5 -- Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

Player appeared at most World Cup finals

5 -- Antonio Carbajal (MEX) (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966) and Lothar Matthaeus (GER) (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998)

Most goals scored in a match

5 -- Oleg Salenko for Russia in 1994 in their 6-1 win over Cameroon in the group pahse.

Number of teams that have won World Cup

8: Brazil, Uruguay, Germany, Spain, England, Italy, France, Argentina.

Fastest goal scored

11 seconds by Hakan Sukur in 2002 for Turkey against South Korea in the third placed match which the Turks won 3-1.

Most goals scored at one World Cup finals

13 -- Frenchman Just Fontaine in 1958.

Record World Cup finals scorer:

15 -- Ronaldo or 'The Phenomenon' as the Brazilian striker was nicknamed accruing the goals over three World Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2006

Youngest player to play at a finals:

Norman Whiteside when he played for Northern Ireland at the 1982 finals when he was 17 years, one month and 10 days old.

Most appearances by a country at the finals:

19 -- Brazil is the only country to have appeared at all the World Cup finals since the inaugural one in 1930 -- the ones scheduled for 1942 and 1946 did not take place because of World War II and its immediate aftermath.

Oldest player to appear at a finals:

Roger Milla in the 1994 finals in the United States when he was 42 years, one month and eight days old.

Worst disciplinary record

Argentina whom in 70 games have received 103 yellow cards, one double yellow (straight red) and nine red cards.

(JPN)

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