(AP) - They watched at remote cattle ranches on the edge of the Amazon. Thousands gathered before a giant screen on sun-drenched Copacabana beach In Rio. In hole-in-the-wall bars in hillside slums, haughty high society clubs and family living rooms across the country, all eyes were trained on TV sets as the World Cup began Thursday in Brazil.

Not even protests outside the stadium in Sao Paulo where Brazil defeated Croatia 3-1 could dampen Brazilians' enthusiasm for the national team, which is chasing a sixth championship.

It started on a nervous note for the home crowd, though.

At Rio de Janeiro's Jockey Club, where the moneyed elite watched the game on giant screens while sipping on wine underneath the gaze of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, the crowd let out a collective screech when Brazil's Marcelo scored an own goal, giving Croatia an early 1-0 lead.

But anguish turned to delight minutes later when superstar striker Neymar slipped a ball past a diving Croatian goalkeeper to even the score.

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