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The anti-tournament protests continued even hours before the ceremony but the din was lost when thousands of football lovers from across the world thronged the Corinthians Arena and watched the spectacle unfold with invigorating enthusiasm.
     
However, a few stands were still empty when the 30-minute ceremony began. A giant LED ball, placed at the centre of the stadium, displayed the welcome message in different languages, and hundreds of artists started to trickle in.
     
Dressed as trees, plants and flowers, the artists represented the nature of the country with background music, which had no drum tunes as yet.
     
Then on show was the diversity of the Brazilian people, their dance and martial arts, developed by the slaves in the 16th century for self defence.
      
It was followed by what Brazil is synonymous with: Game of Football. Several people with football as headgear came in and kids dressed as referees came to the pitch and depicted conduct of a match.
    
J-Lo, Pitbull kick off FIFA World Cup party

Immediately after this, the Brazilian flag was paraded onto the pitch. The giant ball opened and took the form of a flower. Brazilian singer Claudinha surfaced from under it along with Pop icon Jennifer Lopez and rapper Pit Bull.
     
The trio sang the official World Cup song -- We Are One (Ole Ola) -- but it looked Jennifer's mike did not work.
     
Also, the song could not be heard clearly and the ceremony, in which about 500 people showed the vibrant colours of Brazil, concluded in a jiffy without speech of any FIFA official.
     
Several anti-government protests have marred the build up to the tournament and police had to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to defuse a fresh protest near a Sao Paulo subway station, hours before the opening ceremony.
     
More protests are expected in the country over high cost of the staging the World Cup when more spending on health, education and subsidised transport is desired by people.
     
Not only the protests but also the delays in construction of stadias had put the organisers on the edge.
     
Nevertheless, the ceremony went off well and thousands of spectators are now waiting for action to begin as hosts Brazil will take on Croatia in the tournament-opener in a short while from now.

World Cup kicks off with Brazil's cracking win over Croatia

Brazil's poster boy Neymar scored twice and the outstanding Oscar added a late third as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia 3-1 in a thrilling World Cup opening match on Thursday.
               
The Group A game tipped the hosts' way after a controversial 71st-minute penalty awarded when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura harshly ruled that Croatia skipper Dejan Lovren had hauled down Fred when it clearly looked as though the Brazil striker threw himself to the ground.

Opening ceremony in pictures
               
After the Croatian players furiously remonstrated with Nishimura, Neymar kept his composure and put Brazil ahead for the first time with a right-foot penalty which Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa got a hand to but could not save.
               

Apart from that misjudgement Nishimura controlled the superbly-balanced game well as both teams went looking for goals and created chances at both ends.
               
Neymar hauled Brazil back into the game after 29 minutes with the equaliser after defender Marcelo put through his own net after 11 minutes to give Croatia a shock lead.
               
Croatia could have gone ahead even earlier when Olic headed narrowly wide from a pinpoint Ivan Perisic centre.
               
Neymar created Brazil's first opening when he jinked along the byline, resulting in a half-cleared ball to Oscar who slammed in a curling 25-metre drive that Pletikosa acrobatically pushed away.

 


               
But Croatia's reprieve only lasted seven minutes and the equaliser was greeted by scenes of unbridled joy by Brazilian fans and players with fireworks visible on the city skyline through the huge openings on the corners of the stadium.
               
Oscar, at the core of most of Brazil's attacks, started the move by beating two men in midfield before finding Neymar who advanced a few metres before cracking in a low left-foot shot that went in off the base of Pletikosa's left-hand post for his 32nd goal in his 50th international.
               
Neymar scored his 33rd with the penalty and although Croatia never stopped battling, Oscar wrapped up the win in the first minute of stoppage time with a low drive.
              
Croatia coach slams referee after opening game defeat
               
Furious Croatia coach Niko Kovac blamed "out of his depth" referee Yuichi Nishimura and warned the World Cup could turn into a circus after a contentious penalty decision effectively cost his team the opening game of the tournament against Brazil.
               
Japanese ref Nishimura ruled that Croatia's Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred when the Brazilian fell to the floor with 20 minutes remaining and the score at 1-1. Neymar converted the penalty for his second goal of the game and they went on to win 3-1 in Thursday's Group A match.
               
"This was ridiculous today, and if we continue in this way we will have a circus," Kovac told a news conference dominated by questions about the penalty.
               
"If that's a penalty, we don't need to play football anymore. Let's play basketball instead. The lads played their hearts out but that was outright thuggery by a referee who was just out of his depth for a game of this magnitude," he said.
               
"Was there a foul on my player? Yes. It was a foul. But that's life. We will march on. We will not be swayed,” Kovac said.
               
Scolari defends penalty
               
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari rejected claims they were favoured by the referee and heaped praise on Neymar after the forward scored twice in a 3-1 win over Croatia in the World Cup opening game on Thursday.
               
"The only thing we want is that Neymar is happy playing ball. He's a special player," Scolari told reporters after the win gave Brazil a great start in their bid for a record-extending sixth World Cup title.
               
"I'm not going to comment on what my colleague (Kovac) said. The only comment I can make is that Brazil has five World Cup titles. Those weren't five circuses in favor of Brazil," he said.
               
"The referee saw a penalty. It's the referee that has to decide," he added.
               
Scolari, Neymar and the rest of the Brazil team are under intense pressure as local fans expect their team to deliver the country's first World Cup title on home soil.

Marcelo scores Brazil's first ever own goal at World Cup

Defender Marcelo marched into the history books on Thursday by scoring Brazil's first own goal at a World Cup.
               
It was also the opening goal of the 2014 tournament, briefly puncturing the carnival atmosphere across a country where expectations are sky high that the hosts will lift the trophy at the final in Rio De Janeiro on July 13.
               
Marcelo's mistake came in the 11th minute after Croatia forward Ivica Olic found space on the left to put in a teasing cross which his team mate Nikica Jelavic misdirected.
               
The unfortunate Brazilian appeared to swing his right foot to clear the ball, but the late deflection saw it spin off his toe and roll tamely into the net.
               
The 26-year-old left back looked in mild shock as he stood in the goalmouth contemplating his blunder.
               
Marcelo later said he worked hard to remain calm. "I thought, if I get down about it then I could damage the team," he said in a televised interview.
              
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar showed there were no ill feelings, patting his team mate on the head, but for the next 18 minutes, Marcelo, and Brazil, looked on nervously as the hosts pressed for an equaliser.
               
"The fans helped me after I scored the own goal, they chanted my name and my team mates supported me and so I forgot about it and I got into the game again," added Marcelo.
               
"We didn't think about the (own) goal, but rather about scoring an equaliser and that's what happened," he said.

(JPN/Agencies)

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