Brazilian security forces geared up early on Thursday (June 12) for the kick-off of the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo.
The run-up to the competition has been dogged by years of construction delays and budget overruns and there have been protests against the cost of the tournament.
Many Brazilians are angry over the $11.3 billion spent on hosting the World Cup when basic social services are poorly financed.
Police were out in force near Sao Paulo’s Arena Carinthians for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, as helicopters flew over the site.
“In case any demonstrations happen, the security forces will act in the way they have been prepared,” said police Inspector Denilson Dos Santos.
Massive street demonstrations rocked Brazil last year and although they have faded in numbers recently, officials expect a hard core of a few hundred people to try to block traffic to the stadium on Thursday.
Many Brazilians say the country will rally as soon as the action starts, especially if their team justifies its billing as favourite to win the tournament for a record sixth time.
One fan, Mauro Da Silva, said outside the stadium on Thursday that he was glad to be there in spite of the stress caused by tight security.
“Yes, sure, security will be like this, there will be more security because of the crowds. When you want to enter they will push you from here to there, you will be stressed. If you come early you avoid stress. I’ m very happy to be here”.
Officials have expressed fears that protests and traffic problems could mean some fans might still be stuck outside the stadium when the opening match starts at 5 p.m local time. (2000 GMT).
The stadium itself was opened six months late at a cost of $525 million, about $150 million over budget. Because of the delays, Thursday’s game will be the facility’s first at full capacity, which contradicts FIFA’s normal protocol for World Cup games.