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PHOTOS: 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in pictures

This aerial view shot through an airplane window shows the Maracana stadium behind the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. As opening day for the World Cup approaches, people continue to stage protests, some about the billions of dollars spent on the World Cup at a time of social hardship, but soccer is still a unifying force. The international soccer tournament will be the first in the South American nation since 1950. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
The Maracana stadium behind the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. Brazilians have been gripped by protests and strikes leading up to the Cup -- but soccer's hold on the country is as strong. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Despite all the issues and questions leading up to the World Cup in Brazil, the country and its people shined both on the pitch and off once the opening ceremonies were underway.

Brazil the soccer team is off to a promising – if controversial – start to the month-long contest defeating Croatia 3-1 to open the tournament. Group stage games will be played through July 4, then things get serious as the knockout stage starts.

SEE MORE: Pool standings and match schedule

Here’s the best in photos from the 2014 World Cup so far.

READ MORE: Brazil’s World Cup opening ceremony shines

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Brazilian fans cheer prior to the Group A soccer match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
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Participants take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images
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Brazil fans enjoy the atmosphere before the opening ceremony prior to the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo. Beer sales have been permitted in stadiums for the first time in more than a decade. Warren Little/Getty Images
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The Happiness Flag is seen as artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Elsa/Getty Images
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA football World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
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A young Brazilian fan attends the Group A soccer match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Singers Claudia Leitte, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Buda Mendes/Getty Images Sport
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA football World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena. PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
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Singers Claudia Leitte, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Buda Mendes/Getty Images Sport
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
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Brazilian fans attend the opening ceremony before the Group A soccer match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo . FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
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Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthians Arena. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
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A person in a Batman costume holds a sign during an anti-World Cup demonstration in Rio. Demonstrators were protesting outside stadiums in Rio and Sao Paulo ahead of and during the opening ceremonies. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Protestors rally during an anti- World Cup demonstration Rio de Janeiro. Demonstrators were protesting outside stadiums in Rio and Sao Paulo ahead of and during the opening ceremonies.
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A line of police stand guard during an anti-World Cup demonstration in Rio. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Croatia fans pose before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match. Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Brazilian fans cheer before a Group A soccer match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

The drama on the pitch has come fast and furious through the first weekend of play.

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Neymar of Brazil scores on a penalty kick to give the host nation a win to open the tournament. Getty Images
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Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos reacts after his goal was disallowed due to an offside call. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
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Oribe Peralta of Mexico celebrates his goal in the second half against Cameroon. Mexico won 1-0. Julian Finney/Getty Images
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A superb header from Netherlands' forward Robin van Persie was the first of five goals for Netherlands. LUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images
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Arjen Robben, left, and Wesley Sneijder of Netherlands celebrate as Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas looks dejected after the Netherlands second goal . Spain, the defending World Cup champion, lost 5-1 in their opening match. David Ramos/Getty Images
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Yeltsin Tejeda of Costa Rica holds off a challenge by Egidio Arevalo Rios of Uruguay. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
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Giancarlo Gonzalez of Costa Rica jumps on his teammates as they celebrate the team's second goal. Costa Rica upset Uruguay in their opening match. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Salvatore Sirigu of Italy reaches for the ball as Daniele De Rossi and Wayne Rooney of England move behind him. Pool/Getty Images
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Fanny Neguesha, the Belgian fiancee of Italy star Mario Balotelli cheers while fans look on. Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
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England's goalkeeper Joe Hart lies in the net after Italy forward Mario Balotelli scored. FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images
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Daniele De Rossi of Italy celebrates Claudio Marchisio's goal with him during the opening Group D match. Italy won 2-1. Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
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France's Benzema vies for a header during a 3-0 victory over Honduras on Sunday. Paul Gilham/Getty Images
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Roger Espinoza, left, and Oscar Boniek Garcia of Honduras protest France's second goal with referee Sandro Ricci. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
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Karim Benzema of France celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match. France beat Honduras 3-0. Vinicius Costa/Getty Images

Brazil faced serious questions about its ability to host the 2014 tournament as it scrambled to complete facilities in the weeks and days before the start of the tournament.

SEE MORE: Is Brazil ready to host the World Cup?

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This aerial view shot through an airplane window shows the Maracana stadium behind the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. As opening day for the World Cup approaches, people continue to stage protests, some about the billions of dollars spent on the World Cup at a time of social hardship, but soccer is still a unifying force. The international soccer tournament will be the first in the South American nation since 1950. AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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The view from inside the Maracana stadium during a press tour this week. The stadium will host the World Cup Final on July 13. AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo
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Work continues at the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba. The host country had seven years to get ready for the World Cup, but it enters the final month of preparations with a lot yet to be done. The unfinished stadium was nearly excluded from the tournament by FIFA earlier this year. AP Photo/Denis Ferreira Netto
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An aerial view of the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil from January. A worker at the World Cup stadium died on May 8 in an electrical accident. AP Photo/Portal da Copa, Jose Medeiros
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Members of the Homeless Workers Movement protest against the money spent on the World Cup near Itaquerao stadium which will host the international soccer tournament's first match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, May 15, 2014. AP Photo/Andre Penne
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Labourers work on constructing Terminals 3 and 4 at the Sao Paulo/Guarulhos Governor Andre Franco Montoro International Airport in October. Getty Images
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This Sept. 11, 2013 file photo released by Portal da Copa 2014 shows an aerial view of the Galeao international airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Portal da Copa 2014, Daniel Basil, File)
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A collapsed metal structure sits on the ground at the Arena Corinthians, known locally as the Itaquerao, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Andre Penner). AP Photo/Andre Penner
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This March 2014 file photo released by Portal da Copa, shows an aerial view of the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP Photo/Portal da Copa, Mauricio Simonetti, File)
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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visits the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro in early April. AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo
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Brazil's previous World Cup champions, from left, Zagallo, Marcos, Rivellino, Amarildo who holds the World Cup, and Bebeto pose for a photo below the Christ the Redeemer statue at the launch of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File
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The World Cup trophy sits on display during the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour at Maracana stadium. AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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Popular demand: Star Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho is putting his Rio de Janeiro mansion on the rental market during the World Cup. The five-bedroom house is available for the first 15 days of July for $15,500/day. AP Photo/Bruno Magalhaes, File

The tournament has not been without its fair share of controversy within Brazil and with the sport’s organizing body, FIFA, itself. Strikes and other civil strife have plagued the Cup contest in Brazil, and are likely to continue throughout the tournament.

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READ MORE: Civil strife part of the game in Brazil

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Protestors hold up signs during an anti-World Cup demonstration in the Copacabana section on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Police fire non-lethal rounds at protestors during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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PROTEST 06515580A demonstrator protest while wearing a mask with the face of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and that reads in Portuguese, "Go to see the game, You fool", during a march against the FIFA 2014 soccer World Cup, at Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. AP Photo/Leonardo Wen
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A protestor lies on flags in front of police during an anti-World Cup demonstration in the Copacabana section on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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A police officer stands next to a destroyed police car during a violent demonstration at the 2014 soccer World Cup in the center of Belo Horizonte , Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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A soccer fan (L) and anti-World Cup protestors yell at each other at a restaurant that was showing the game on Copacabana beach on June 12, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Protesters and Brazilian police continued to clash in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and at least three other World Cup cities Thursday. AP Photo
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A line of police stand guard during an anti-World Cup demonstration in Rio. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Protestors rally during an anti- World Cup demonstration Rio de Janeiro. Demonstrators were protesting outside stadiums in Rio and Sao Paulo ahead of and during the opening ceremonies.
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Police move past burning debris during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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Metro workers meeting in Sao Paulo on Wednesday raise their hands to vote the end of their strike -- less than 24 hours before the World Cup opener. NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the uncertainty about Brazil’s readiness and the protests, Brazil’s youth showed why the South American country is the world’s leading soccer nation.

SEE MORE: Brazil’s youth show off their street soccer joy as heroes await World Cup

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Children play a game of soccer in the streets of a 'favela' called Santa Marta in Rio. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Children play a game of soccer in the streets of a favela called Santa Marta in Rio de Janeiro on June 8. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Brazilian children play football on a street near the Fonte Nova Arena stadium in Salvador, one of 12 host cities. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Brazilian children play football on a street near the Fonte Nova Arena stadium in Salvador, one of 12 host cities. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Brazilian children play football on a street near the Fonte Nova Arena stadium in Salvador, one of 12 host cities. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Brazilian children play football on a street near the Fonte Nova Arena stadium in Salvador, one of 12 host cities. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
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Youngsters play soccer in front of a mural of Argentine football player Lionel Messi, left, and Brazil's Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. at a field of Tavares Bastos, a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
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Serbia's Nemanja Matic vies for the ball with Brazil's Neymar during a friendly match ahead official World Cup action. The match was June 6 at Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo. Miguel Schincariol/AFP/Getty Images

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