World Cup Fervor Begins Winning Out Over Opposition in Brazil as Tournament Begins

A young girl lifts a replica of the World Cup trophy next to a sand sculpture of Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ the Redeemer along the Copacabana beach, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The World Cup 2014 tournament will be held in Brazil and starts on June 12. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A young girl lifts a replica of the World Cup trophy next to a sand sculpture of Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ the Redeemer along the Copacabana beach, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The World Cup 2014 tournament will be held in Brazil and starts on June 12. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A young girl lifts a replica of the World Cup trophy next to a sand sculpture of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer along the Copacabana beach, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The World Cup 2014 tournament will be held in Brazil and starts on June 12. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

 

 Antonio da Silva sat atop a dilapidated wooden throne in the middle of the city. Below him a man shined his brown leather shoes, and in front, the bustling public square Praça da Se came to life. Street performers and sidewalk evangelists harmonized and sermonized away the final hours before chaos was scheduled to give way to competition.

“Tomorrow is Brazil,” da Silva, a 58-year-old retiree wearing a Brazil soccer cap, said Wednesday.

The first of 64 World Cup matches is scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon when Croatia takes on powerful Brazil, which is trying to become the first country since France in 1998 to hoist the championship trophy on its home turf. Evidence of the tournament is easy to find all across the country, where buildings are decorated in the national colors of green and yellow and inflatable soccer balls are as common as Neymar jerseys, celebrating the Brazilian wunderkind with boy-band good looks and sneaky-fast feet.

But signs of resistance are also difficult to miss, and enthusiasm has been capricious at best. Spray-painted on a building along Rua Augusta is the popular grass-roots slogan, protester chant and social media hashtag: “There won’t be a Cup.” A graffiti artist was more to the point along Rua Major Nataneal, etching stark black letters on a brick wall: “[Forget] FIFA,” the expletive aimed at the sport’s governing body.

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