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World Cup: All eyes on Brazil

The opening ceremony of the 2014 Fifa World Cup is underway in Sao Paulo.

The opening ceremony of the 2014 Fifa World Cup at Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo on 12 June 2014. Picture: Fifa.

SAO PAULO - After seven years of preparations marred by delays, cost overruns and protests, football has finally taken centre stage at the 2014 World Cup.

Hosts Brazil will begin their quest to win the trophy for a sixth time with a tricky Group A opening encounter against Croatia at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo this evening.

In the stadium, at least, the sombre mood that has permeated World Cup preparations in recent months has finally turned festive, with the colourful opening ceremony now underway.

Tens of thousands of fans are cheering and singing along as brightly dressed drama students entertain the crowd.

The floral theme represents the beauty of Brazil's Amazon rainforest, with performers dressed as various kinds of trees and flowers.

One fan has even taken the opportunity to propose:

Visit EWN's Soccer World Cup 2014 Portal.

PROTESTS

Brazilian police and protesters clashed earlier on Thursday, with at least five people injured.

Protests erupted at the Tatuape metro station where people wearing black masks tried to barge their way through the turnstiles.

Police were on the scene to react, linking arms and forming a strong line, denying the protesters passage.

Some protesters resisted, forcing police to use force with batons and shields.

In a separate incident, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs to disperse more than 100 demonstrators who earlier gathered in eastern Sao Paulo, about 10 kilometres away from the stadium.

About 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying "Fifa go home," in a reference to the world football body.

Smaller demonstrations also occurred in other cities.

All pictures: AFP.