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)
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.comments powered by Disqus