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World Cup stadium holds test matches a day after protests across Brazil

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SAO PAULO - The latest stadium inaugurated for the World Cup in Brazil held its first two matches without major glitches on Sunday, a day after demonstrators across Brazil protested against the tournament.

The Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal sustained minor damage during the protests, but demonstrators stayed away on Sunday and officials said the stadium passed its first test, with only minor adjustments needed going forward.

Work was being done until the final moments before the inaugural match, but the doubleheader between local clubs in front of tens of thousands of fans was not affected.

Before the matches, local media reported that police arrested two men accused of firing shots at a group of rival fans a few kilometres from the stadium. No one was injured.

Demonstrators complaining about the costs of the World Cup destroyed some protective fencing and set fire to temporary tents outside the Arena das Dunas late Saturday. Local media reported security guards fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd. The Tribuna do Norte newspaper said 19 people were detained.

The protest was part of a nationwide movement by those opposed the level of spending on the World Cup. About 1,000 people protested in Sao Paulo and smaller demonstrations took place in several other cities. Demonstrators attacked an empty police vehicle, torched a small car and smashed the windows of banks in Sao Paulo. Authorities responded with tear gas and rubber bullets and detained more than 100 people in South America's biggest city.

On its Facebook page, the Anonymous Rio protest group billed "Operation Stop the World Cup" as this year's first act against the football tournament.

The Confederations Cup was marked by violent protests last year and more are expected during the World Cup.

The Arena das Dunas was the seventh World Cup stadium to be completed, with five still being worked on less than five months before the opening game on June 12. Those stadiums are mostly expected to be ready in time, but there is doubt about whether Curitiba will remain a host city as the stadium there is running well behind schedule.

Brazil had promised to hand over all 12 World Cup stadiums by the end of 2013. Six of them were ready for the Confederations Cup last year.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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