Brazil's Neymar and Hernanes celebrate after Neymar scored a goal from a penalty kick during the 2014 World Cup opening match against Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Brazil's Neymar (R) and Hernanes celebrate after Neymar scored a goal from a penalty kick during the 2014 World Cup opening match against Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, June 12, 2014.  Ivan Alvarado—Reuters

The World Cup Kicks Off in Brazil

Jun 12, 2014

Updated 6:00pm ET

The World Cup kicked off Thursday, with tournament favorite and host Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament.

The game followed a lavish opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull and Brazilian pop star Claudia Leitte performing the official—and at times panned--song of the games, “We Are One.”

The competition has been marred by widespread protests across the country fueled by the tournament's $11 billion price tag despite a trouble economy and high crime rates.

But on Thursday, some 1 billion people were estimated to be watching Brazil take on Croatia, kicking off the tournament of 31 nations. In total, 64 matches will be played in 12 stadiums across the country until July 13. The tournament begins with a group stage, and the top two leaders of each group advance to the knockout stage of four rounds.

The U.S. plays its first game on Monday at 6pm ET against Ghana. See the full World Cup schedule here.

And if you’re hoping to watch the day games from work, ESPN is streaming the matches online here ONLY for most paid cable subscribers. Alternatively, Univision Deportes is streaming matches from the tournament’s first two rounds, in Spanish (h/t Slate).

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VIEW GALLERY | 18 PHOTOS
The Brazilian flag is seen at the base of the statue of the Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro on June 12, 2014.Ben Stansall—AFP/Getty Images
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Opening Ceremony
A dancer performs during the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Performers participate in the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
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A brazilian soccer fan walks on the street near the Corinthians Arena ahead the 2014 World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo
A reflection of cheering fans is seen before the 2014 World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Brazil's national soccer players pose for a team photo before their 2014 World Cup opening match against Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Players stand in a circle as doves are released before kickoff at the 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
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Brazil's Neymar fights for the ball with Croatia's Rakitic during their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Ivan Perisic of Croatia celebrates a first half goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo.
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Croatia's goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa fails to save the goal scored by Brazil's Neymar (unseen) during the 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Brazil's Neymar celebrates a goal during the 2014 World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
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Croatia's players react after conceding a goal to Brazil's Oscar during their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
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The Brazilian flag is seen at the base of the statue of the Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro on June 12, 2014.
Ben Stansall—AFP/Getty Images
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