Nearly half the world's population, well over three billion spectators, were expected to watch soccer's premier event as the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil to much fanfare around the world.

Play began with Brazil and Croatia meeting in Sao Paulo on Thursday at 1 p.m. PT. An own goal by Brazil gave the Croatians a 1-0 lead early on, but nervy Brazil went on to score three goals in an impressive 3-1 comeback win

Here in Vancouver, Brazilian and Croatian soccer fans were gearing up for the match with high expectations and worries about preparedness.

Soccer coach Marcelo Zuge emigrated to Canada in 2010, after visiting with a young soccer team. Now he's teaching Brazilian soccer skills in a style called futsal.

"The ball is fast, the ball don't bounce. It's a small space, so you have to think first."

"Foot on the ball. Close your arms, your mean face...no smile, now show your teeth," he tells his young players in North Vancouver.

Zuge is headed back to Brazil to take in the World Cup.

"You have this opportunity once a life. And this is a country I know better, I speak the language. I cannot think I might have a chance to go to Russia or Qatar."

He says he's pretty confident in his home team, "because they're playing at home.  But I am afraid of Argentina."

Brazilian brothers, Brazilian style

In downtown Vancouver, Brazilian brothers Marcus Aurilio and Marcus Vinicios were busy teaching capoeira, the Brazilian martial art.

But, their thoughts were back home.

"We bring Brazil to Vancouver itself, right? And that's why we run the academy, and here we have that same vibe," said Aurilio.

"When people are cheering and they're putting on that energy, we bring that energy also to this studio."

And they say the agility, speed and strength they teach comes in handy on the soccer pitch.

"Lots of Brazilian soccer players, they've either practiced capoeira before, or they even practice it till today."

But it wasn't all positive ahead of the tournament. The massive costs, concerns about preparedness and protests were also top of mind for these brothers.

"I feel like they could be spending the money into better things, you know. Like, we have hospitals that we could use, hospitals, we could use better education in Brazil," said Vinicios.

But as Brazilians in Metro Vancouver follow the ups and downs of their team's first matches, they understand there is more than national pride on the line.

Croatian powerhouse

For Croatians too, it was a big game. Croatian Vancouverite David Soric could not wait for kick-off.

Croatian fan - David Soric

Proud Croatian soccer fan David Soric says Croatia is known as the "Brazil of Europe" (CBC)

"There's a lot of pressure, I'm not going to lie, it's going to be fantastic, I'm telling you it's David against Goliath," said Soric before the match.

"But the blood that's going to be flowing through the Croatian players, the pride that's going through all these Croatian people in Croatia and all around Croatia...

"It's not just a little country of four and a half million, it's a big, powerful country, a soccer nation, a football factory. They even call us the Brazilians of Europe."

Brazil goes on to face Mexico next Tuesday, June 17 at 12 p.m. PT. Croatia will face Cameroon next Wednesday, June 18 at 3 p.m. PT.

All FIFA World Cup matches can be watched on the CBC and online at CBCSports.ca.