5 things: On and off-field highlights, lowlights from the World Cup

Story highlights

  • After the opener Thursday, three games are played in Brazil on Friday
  • Netherlands routs Spain in a rematch of the 2010 final
  • Interpol official notes worries about match-fixing, illegal betting
  • Pope Francis jokes he promised Brazilians he'd remain neutral

After officially hosting a single guest -- Croatia, which its national team ungraciously greeted with a 3-1 drubbing -- Brazil opened its doors wide on Friday, the World Cup's first full day of competition.

That meant welcoming the last World Cup's finalists, not to mention tens of thousands of fans in the stands and millions more tuning in on TV.

Here are a few big developments -- from both on and off the pitch -- from Friday in Brazil:

Reigning champ goes down, hard

The last time Spain and the Netherlands dueled on soccer's biggest stage, in 2010 in South Africa, they went scoreless for 90 minutes of regulation, then 25 more minutes of extra time. Andres Iniesta broke the deadlock, giving Spain its first ever World Cup title.

Spain thrashing brings agony to Madrid
Spain thrashing brings agony to Madrid


    Spain thrashing brings agony to Madrid


Spain thrashing brings agony to Madrid 02:03
Interpol investigating World Cup betting
Interpol investigating World Cup betting


    Interpol investigating World Cup betting


Interpol investigating World Cup betting 05:15

But Friday's rematch was an oh-so different ballgame.

Things started off well for Spain in the European powers' Group B showdown in Salvador, as it jumped ahead midway through the first half on a penalty call in the box.

The Dutch notched up the score just before the break on a pretty diving header by Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

Then the onslaught began.

Netherlands pumped in four goals within 30 minutes in the second half, crushing the reigning World Cup champs en route to a convincing 5-1 decision.

Netherlands thump Spain

Interpol eyes alleged match-fixing

Considering Spain's success in recent world tournaments, one might think that Friday's rout is impossible to believe.

While there's no indication of any fix in the Spain-Netherlands' matchup specifically, Interpol Secretary General Rob Noble did tell CNN's Richard Quest on Friday that members of his international investigative agency are in Brazil and other places due to serious concerns about match-fixing and illegal betting during this year's tournament.

During the interview in France, Noble said that whenever "there are organized groups engaged in illegal betting" -- as is happening in connection with the World Cup -- there are worries they might try to impact results.

"With illegal betting, there's a greater likelihood that there could be an influence on the outcome of the match or an influence on what happens on the pitch, based on a bribe or some kind of corrupt act," Noble said.

FIFA slaps Beckenbauer over corruption probe

The idea of corruption in international soccer is unfathomable, you think? Well, you might want to think again.

The latest scandal that has embarrassed the sport has to do with the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, setting the stage for a tournament in that small, dry and scorching (if the event is in summer, as it usually is) Middle Eastern nation.

So far, there's been no official finding this decision wasn't aboveboard -- though the whole process has already claimed a few high-ranking officials in Nigeria's Amos Adamu and Oceania representative Reynald Temarii.

In addition, Mohammed bin Hammam has been banned for life in connection with another bribery scandal, while FIFA Vice President Jack Warner quit after being implicated in the same case.

The latest official in the sport to be ensnared in all this is also one of its biggest names: Franz Beckenbauer.

Beckenbauer banned by FIFA

The only man to win the World Cup as a team captain and coach has been provisionally suspended from all soccer-related activity for 90 days, FIFA announced Friday. He was one of the 22 FIFA executive committee members who voted on the 2022 site.

The sport's world governing body claimed that the 68-year-old Beckenbauer failed "to cooperate" with a probe of Qatar 2022 and its bidding process "despite repeated requests for assistance" in answering questions either in person or in writing.

Last week, Beckenbauer told German media that he did not respond to the questions because they were in English and he did not understand them. FIFA said in its statement that the questions were presented in German as well as English.

Latin American teams win again

But enough of these downers. Let's get back to Latin America, where the fun has begun -- especially for teams from there.

Brazil, by virtue of its tournament-opening win, was the first to join the party. Then Mexico, out of North America, took center stage in the next contest in Natal.

The game wasn't always pretty or clean, with three controversially disallowed goals (two by Mexico, one by Cameroon). It certainly wasn't dry, with a persistent, pelting rain drenching everything in sight. But Friday's matchup was successful for El Tri, which earned a 1-0 victory to even Mexico up points-wise with Brazil in Group A.

The final contest Friday pitted Chile against Australia in the inland city of Cuiaba, which is closer to the Bolivian capital of Sucre than Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

The Chileans pounced on the Socceroos from the get-go, notching two goals within the first 14 minutes. Australia got within a goal and narrowly missed several chances to tie it up, only to give up another score late to fall by a 3-1 margin.

Tuning in, from Thailand to the Vatican

While only eight countries have taken the stage so far, that doesn't mean the rest of the world hasn't been watching.

Some 3.2 billion people watched the 2010 World Cup, according to FIFA. And while ratings aren't in yet about the current edition, the expectation is that these numbers will grow.

Brazil 2014 set to smash TV records

This despite the fact that there's a lot of other stuff going on. Not just things like work, chasing after kids or making a sandwich, but dealing with war, famine and other harsh realities that plague our world.

The people of Thailand have been dealing with the aftermath of a military coup, which followed months of unrest that destabilized the elected government and spawned outbursts of violence. The Asian nation's leaders subsequently instituted a nighttime curfew to keep things in check.

But on Friday, they lifted that curfew in more than 30 provinces and districts, including tourist havens Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi. That's a good thing for soccer fans, given that -- due to the time difference with Brazil -- games run from 11 p.m. and into the early morning, local time.

Those in Bangkok, though, still can't go out to watch games with friends and family, because the curfew there is still on.

Soccer-mad Bangkok still under curfew

One man who seems likely to catch a game or 10 lives half a world away in the Vatican. An Argentinian with Italian roots born as Jorge Bergoglio, he's today better known as Pope Francis.

The erstwhile supporter of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo declined, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, to say which team he'll be rooting for this World Cup.

The pontiff -- who, per the Roman Catholic faith, has big-time connections in the highest of places -- said he's promised Brazilians that he will remain neutral.