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

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

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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?

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

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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