World Cup 2014 is set to kick off in Brazil, launching a month of action that will see teams representing 32 nations do battle in hopes of being crowned champion of the world's top team sporting event.
(cartoon by Arvin, Tehran's Shargh daily)
In the opening match in Sao Paolo, host Brazil meets Croatia.
According to bookmakers, Brazil is favored to win. Brazil has already won a record five titles.
Defending champion Spain is bidding to make history by becoming the first side from Europe to win a World Cup in South America.
Only eight nations have won the World Cup, all from Europe and South America.
Bosnia will be playing in its very first World Cup this year.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said her country is ready to host the World Cup, despite cost overruns, construction delays, and protests.
She said the country would welcome with "open arms" the estimated 600,000 fans expected to attend.
Brazil has spent some $11 billion to build and renovate 12 stadiums, plus to upgrade infrastructure, making it the most expensive World Cup ever.
Some projects, such as a bullet train between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, never left the drawing board.
Others are only partially completed or have been put on ice until after the World Cup.
The spending has fueled unrest, with critics saying the money could have been better spent on schools, hospitals, and public transportation.
Authorities fear a repeat of nationwide protests that plagued the FIFA Confederations Cup last year.
According to the French AFP news agency, around 150,000 police and soldiers and some 20,000 private security officers will be deployed in and around the 12 host venues to maintain security.
Along with potential protests, authorities are also worried about possible work stoppages.
On the eve of the opening, subway workers in Sao Paolo decided not to resume their strike to demand a pay raise.
However, airport workers in Rio de Janeiro announced a partial work stoppage to demand bonuses for working extra hours.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2014 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Related Photos: Iran National Football Team Practice Session in Brazil
photos by Ahmad Moeinijam, Islamic Republic News Agency
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