Watch parties for ESPN's telecast of Thursday's opening game of soccer's World Cup between Brazil and Croatia will be held at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and the St. Anthony Croatian Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles.
A noon rally will be held outside the church at 712 N. Grand Ave. preceding the 1 p.m. telecast of the game from São Paulo, Brazil.
"The World Cup is a religion around the world that has finally reached the United States," said Ante Kvartuc, the founder and editor of CroatianSports.com, a website covering Croatian sports in English.
"The time has come to treat the World Cup here in Los Angeles like it is treated in many parts of the world as the quintessential global unifier."
More than 300 Croatian fans, dressed in the team's colorful checkered jerseys, will be joined by a group of Brazilian fans in watching the game on a 22-foot projection television screen in the church's parish center, according to party organizers.
Many of the tournament's games will be shown at the Paley Center for Media, 465 N. Beverly Drive, on a big screen television through the championship game July 13. Admission is free and open to the public.
Croatia qualified for its fourth World Cup by defeating Iceland, 2-0, in a two-game, total-goal series in November. It is 18th in the rankings compiled by FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, 15 spots behind Brazil.
Croatian players played for Yugoslavia until it Croatia declared its independence in 1991. The team, whose nickname translates into the Blazers in English, finished third in its World Cup debut in 1998, but failed to advance past the group stage in the 2002 and 2006 tournaments. It failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times, most recently in 2002. It lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2010 tournament. It qualified as the host nation.
Brazil defeated Croatia, 1-0, in a group play game in 2006 in the only previous World Cup game between the two nations.
— City News Service