WRAPUP 1-Brazil hopes for smooth opener as World Cup kicks off
By Brian Winter and Kieran Murray
SAO PAULO, June 12 (Reuters) - After years of construction delays and budget overruns, the World Cup kicks off in Brazil on Thursday under a cloud of discontent at home even as happy foreign fans pour in for the tournament.
Brazil's national team hosts Croatia in the opening match at a newly built stadium in Sao Paulo whose cost and late delivery came to embody the troubled World Cup preparations.
Brazil is seen by many fans around the world as the spiritual home of soccer and hundreds of thousands will descend on the country for the month-long tournament, but until now the enthusiasm among Brazilians has been muted.
Many are angry over the $11.3 billion spent on hosting the World Cup when basic social services are poorly financed.
Massive street demonstrations rocked the country last year and although they have faded in numbers recently, officials expect a hard core of a few hundred people to try to block traffic to the stadium on Thursday. That could cause violent clashes with police.
Brazilians say the country will rally as soon as the action starts, especially if their team justifies its billing as favorite to win the tournament for a record sixth time.
"Just wait until Brazil starts winning. Then you'll see people in the streets," said Rogerio Souza, a fan in Sao Paulo, although he warned failure would cause more discontent.
"Brazilians only count titles. No one cares about second place. If they don't win the Cup at home, you'll see the criticism rain down," Continuación...