- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

From the stadium in Sao Paulo to sofas in Germany, from a pub in Nairobi to a cafe in Miami, from a Rio slum to outer space, nearly half the world’s population was expected to tune in to the World Cup, soccer’s premier event which kicked off Thursday in Brazil.

Even football-loving Pope Francis got a touch of World Cup fever. He sent a video message on Brazilian television before the match, saying the world’s most popular sport can promote peace and solidarity.

The inaugural game had everything aficionados love - passion, drama, spectacle, goals and a refereeing controversy. Here are just a few of the billions of spectators who got caught up in it all.

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