By Zjan Shirinian

Brazil are favourite to win their sixth World Cup ahead of the tournament kicking off today ©AFP/Getty ImagesHosts Brazil will begin their quest for a sixth FIFA World Cup today when they kick off the 20th staging of the tournament against Croatia.

More than 60,000 fans are expected to pack into the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo to watch the opening game of the World Cup, which will be preceded by a lavish Opening Ceremony.

A nation's hopes are pinned on the likes of rising star Neymar, with only World Cup glory acceptable to many fans.

With Brazil's group also featuring Mexico and Cameroon, their progression to the knockout phase of the tournament is in little doubt.

But what they can achieve beyond that is less certain, with many pundits pointing out the team is not in the same category as many of the great outfits the country has sent to football's showpiece event.

They are, however, favourite to lift the trophy in Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã on July 13.

Their South American rivals Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, are second favourite to win the tournament.

Players from both Brazil and Croatia have been getting used to the surroundings of the Arena Corinthians ©Getty ImagesPlayers from both Brazil and Croatia have been getting used to the surroundings of the Arena Corinthians ©Getty Images

Twelve stadiums, from Manaus in the north to Porto Alegre in the south, and Cuiaba in the west to Natal in the east, will host matches during the month of football.

Despite delays at the stadiums, FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke has said they are all now ready for teams, fans and officials.

For the first time in a World Cup, referees will be able to rely on technology.

They can call on a review if there is uncertainty over whether the ball crossed the goal line.

Referees can also use vanishing spray to mark out distances for free kicks.

FIFA says more than 2.9 million tickets have been sold, but some are still available for a number of matches, including ties involving Germany and Italy.

Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950, when they lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the deciding match.

The build-up to this year's tournament has been hit by a series of controversies, from stadium delays to strikes by metro workers.

Today, workers at two airports in Rio de Janeiro went on strike, though they are both expected to still run at about 80 per cent of their usual capacity.

Protests, many by those against the cost of staging the World Cup, have also hit cities across Brazil since the country staged the Confederations Cup last summer.

And many will be watching to see if the unrest continues once the first ball is kicked, as 32 teams contest 64 matches for the ultimate prize in football.

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