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First Full Day of Matches Gets Underway at the World Cup

FILE - National soccer players from Brazil (L) and Croatia enter the stadium before their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, June 12, 2014.
FILE - National soccer players from Brazil (L) and Croatia enter the stadium before their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, June 12, 2014.
VOA News
The first full day of matches gets under way at the World Cup in Brazil Friday, highlighted by defending champion Spain clashing with the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 final.
 
The two teams play each other in a Group B matchup in Salvador.
 
In the day's other matches, Mexico clashes with Cameroon in a Group A match in Natal and Chile faces off against Argentina in a Group B battle in Cuiaba. 
 
The 2014 World Cup officially got under way Thursday with an elaborate opening ceremony.
 
Host country Brazil took the field in the tournament's first match and came away with a 3-1 win over Croatia in Sao Paulo.
 
Brazil, in Group A, is the consensus favorite and is seeking a record sixth World Cup title. A title would be the country’s first since 2002. The Brazilians are ranked third in the world by World Cup organizer FIFA, behind Spain at number one and Germany in the second spot.
 
Other teams expected to challenge for this year's trophy include Argentina - Brazil's neighbor and fierce rival – and European giants Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.
 
In Thursday's opening match, Brazilian superstar Neymar scored two goals, including one on a penalty kick, and teammate Oscar added an insurance score during injury time.
 
Neymar's penalty kick gave Brazil a 2-1 lead and came after a controversial call in the 71st minute when teammate Fred fell in the area under light contact.  Croatian players charged the referee to plead their case, but to no avail.
 
Croatia later had a potential tying goal nullified in the 83rd minute after a referee called a foul by Ivica Olic on Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
 
Croatia took an initial 1-0 lead in the world's premier sporting event when Brazilian defender Marcelo inadvertently kicked the ball into his own goal in the 11th minute.
 
The World Cup is played in two stages. The first lasts two weeks, with four teams in each of eight groups playing games against one another. The top two teams in each group then move on to a single-elimination bracket, with a champion being crowned on July 13.

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