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World Cup 2014: Brazil's passion for soccer runs deep through its history

Brazilian forward Jairzinho is carried by fans aft

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Brazilian forward Jairzinho is carried by fans after Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 in the World Cup final 21 June 1970 in Mexico City. It is Brazil's third World title after the first two won in 1958 in Sweden and 1962 in Chile.

Santos, Zito & Pele

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7th May 1963: Three footballers of Brazil's national team - (from left to right) - Djalma Santos, Zito and Pele - at their hotel at Selsdon Park. The players have recovered from injuries received in a road accident at Hamburg and are in training for a forthcoming match against England.

The Brazilian team

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24 Jun 1978: The Brazilian team before the World Cup Semi-Final match against Italy at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Brazil won the match 2-1.

Poster of Brazil's Fried, player of the 1919 Brazi

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Poster of Brazil's Fried, player of the 1919 Brazilian National football team.

The World Cup kicks off this week, and it's taking place in a country known for bringing passion and flair to the game: Brazil.

Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other country, and this year it could lift the trophy on home soil. But the tournament also opens amid turmoil and controversy, with criticism over cost overruns, delays in construction and protests about inequality and corruption.

The national team, though seen by many as one of the favorites, is also under enormous pressure. The sport, known as football throughout the world, has a long and fascinating history in the country.

"It's part of the national identity," author Alex Bellos tells Take Two. His book, "Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life," explores more than a century of development of the sport in a complex country that emerged from slavery and colonialism into one of the most diverse societies in the Americas.

"Football was the one thing that united Brazilians and made them feel positive and happy to be Brazilian back in the early 20th century," says Bellos.

In the end, Brazilians took a sport introduced by Europe, and reinvented it as their own, says Bellos.

"Football in Brazil is about improvisation, creativity — it's about flamboyance," he says.



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