By Esteban Israel
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilians may have mixed feelings about the World Cup, but the rest of the world is wearing the famed "verde amarelo" jersey with pride.
Many fans among the festive sea of yellow and green flooding Sao Paulo's Corinthians arena for the opening match on Thursday couldn't even pronounce the word Brazil properly, though that did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.
"My heart is Brazilian," said John Norris, a 62-year-old retired firefighter from Miami who flew to Sao Paulo with his son for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia.
"I also have the U.S. shirt," he said pointing at the Brazil shirt he was wearing. "But apart from that I'm Brazilian to the core. It’s people who make Brazil so special."
Brazil, the country of Pele, Zico, Ronaldo, Neymar and so many other soccer legends, is loved around the globe. Kids from the streets of South Africa to Scotland and Japan to Haiti often wear the magical yellow shirt. It is, in many ways, the world's team.
Take Computer analyst Rakphong Wonguenai, who flew from Bangkok with a group of friends, walked into the stadium wearing a Neymar shirt and the red, blue and white of the Thai flag wrapped around his head.
"We love Brazil," he said in broken English. "We love the way they play. We like their style. They are cool."
Yet many Brazilians have been bitter about the World Cup, a multi-billion dollar event they see as a waste of taxpayer's money badly needed to improve the country's deficient public health, education and transportation systems.
Anti-World Cup protests broke in part of Sao Paulo hours before kickoff.
But on Thursday afternoon the mood started to change, with thousands of fans taking to the streets in those yellow shirts.
"They have to win," said Ikmal Owara, a Canadian wearing a Brazil shirt and a yellow and green wig. "This is their town. This is their country. This is their sport. The odds are in their favour. All of the odds."
(Reporting by Esteban Israel; Editing by Kieran Murray)