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BRAZIL BEAT: Match day finally arrives at World Cup as fans pack Copacabana beach

More than five hours before the World Cup kicked off, hundreds of fans were already lining up outside the Fan Fest space on Rio's Copacabana beach.

The line of mostly yellow and green, the colors of the Brazilian flag, snaked up the white sands of Copacabana midday Thursday before making a U-turn onto the beach's iconic black and white stone mosaic sidewalk.

Host Brazil faces Croatia in Sao Paulo to open the World Cup at 5 p.m. local time.

In Rio, soldiers armed with automatic weapons patrolled the beach, not far from vendors hawking Brazil jerseys, noisemakers and green and yellow Afro wigs that were doing a brisk business.

— By Jenny Barchfield — twitter.com/JennyBarchfield

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Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports/world-cup-2014