World Cup waiting is over: Brazil 2014 ready to kick off

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Story highlights

Hosts Brazil kicks off World Cup 2014 against Croatia

Jennifer Lopez sings at opening ceremony

NEW: Police fire teargas at protesters in Sao Paulo

Spain is defending champion from 2010 in South Africa

CNN  — 

Brazil welcomed the world with a carnival of color as the greatest football tournament on earth began Thursday.

Fans packed into the stadium in Sao Paulo ahead of the World Cup’s opening game between the host nation and Croatia, witnessing a spectacular opening ceremony.

The show, which comprised of a three-part exploration of Brazilian life, began with a journey into the Amazon rainforest with walking trees and dancing flowers.

The South American country’s diversity was embraced in the second part, with all facets of its culture and traditions celebrated with dancing and maracas.

The ceremony, which cost $9 million, was brought to an end by a performance from Jennifer Lopez, rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte with a rendition of the official World Cup song “We Are One.”

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It is the culmination of a seven-year buildup to football’s global showpiece which has been plagued by mass protests about the estimated $11 billlion cost of staging the tournament and concerns that stadiums and crucial infrastructure would not be completed in time.

Read: World Cup schedule of matches