Sports

From slums to space, world tunes in to World Cup

  • Fans cheer before the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.  (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

    Fans cheer before the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Brazilian fan grimaces as she watches the 2014 soccer World Cup opening game between Brazil and Croatia at the Fan Fest complex in Recife, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. After taking the early lead in the opening match of the international soccer tournament, Croatia fell 3-1 to the five-time champion Brazil. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    A Brazilian fan grimaces as she watches the 2014 soccer World Cup opening game between Brazil and Croatia at the Fan Fest complex in Recife, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. After taking the early lead in the opening match of the international soccer tournament, Croatia fell 3-1 to the five-time champion Brazil. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)  (The Associated Press)

  • Brazilian residents watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup between Brazil and Croatia in Porto Seguro, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

    Brazilian residents watch the opening match of the FIFA World Cup between Brazil and Croatia in Porto Seguro, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)  (The Associated Press)

From the stadium in Sao Paulo to sofas in Germany, from a pub in Nairobi to a cafe in Miami, from a Rio slum to outer space, nearly half the world's population was expected to tune in to the World Cup, soccer's premier event which kicked off Thursday in Brazil.

Even football-loving Pope Francis got a touch of World Cup fever. He sent a video message on Brazilian television before the match, saying the world's most popular sport can promote peace and solidarity.

The inaugural game had everything aficionados love — passion, drama, spectacle, goals and a refereeing controversy. Here are just a few of the billions of spectators who got caught up in it all.

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