Teresópolis (Brazil) (AFP) - Brazil's World Cup squad were forced to run a gauntlet of 200 striking teachers on Monday as they headed for their tournament base camp against a backdrop of public anger over the cost of staging the event.
"An educator is worth more than Neymar," teachers chanted, referring to the star striker, as the team bus edged through the protesters from Rio de Janeiro's international airport to the squad's base about 90 kilometers (60 miles) away at Teresopolis in the hills north of Rio.
Despite a heavy police presence, the demonstrators managed to hold up the team's convoy long enough to plant anti-World Cup stickers on their bus before it finally eased past the throng.
At the squad's Granja Comary training complex, where they were met by more protests, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said his charges have what it takes to win the country's sixth World Cup.
"We have a great mix (of youth and experience). The young players have experience having played at the top level in Europe," he told Globo television.
The players -- minus Marcelo, given dispensation to fly in Wednesday after winning the Champions League late Saturday with Real Madrid -- gathered after breakfast for their bus transfer and arrived at their training complex around midday.
But the protests were all too visible for the players. Protesters shouted their trademark "There will be no Cup" slogan in easy earshot.
Some tried to block the team bus from leaving Rio, but the driver dodged them and accelerated away.
"The Cup does not interest me! We want more money for health and education," protesters bellowed.
The teachers went on strike in Rio state on May 12, demanding a 20-percent salary increase.
Even diehard fans who had turned out to greet the team and wave the flag amid tight security around the training complex were frustrated as they barely got a glimpse of their heroes, hidden behind tinted glass.
"I came from Mage (about 40 kilometers away) especially to see Neymar, but unfortunately I couldn't see anything. What a shame -- the bus just sped past," said Marineide, 40, who had come with her two daughters.
To ensure Brazil have the best possible conditions to prepare, the Brazilian Football Confederation earlier this year gave the training complex a multimillion-dollar facelift.
The facilities include 39 individual rooms with king-size beds and several full-size pitches where Scolari will prepare the team before they play the opening match of the tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
But such luxurious details have angered a populace demanding urgent investment in infrastructure, health and education.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the facility, where one banner read, in English: "Billions for the FIFA World Cup, no housing for the victims of the heavy rains (of) 2011. Do you think it is fair?"
Torrential rains claimed more than 900 lives in the Teresopolis region days after President Dilma Rousseff took office.
Rosangela Castro, a local teacher, said: "It is a real scandal they spent more than 15 million reais ($7 million) to refurbish this training center and billions on the World Cup."
Police will stand guard 24 hours a day at Granja Comary to ward off any trouble.
Brazil has been hit by a wave of strikes and protests ahead of the World Cup and elections in October. Police, teachers, bank security guards and bus drivers have staged disruptive strikes in recent weeks.
Protests during last year's Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, brought a million
people into the streets and turned violent at times, to the embarrassment of tournament organizers.
Recent protests have been smaller but more radical.
- Final preparations -
The players will train from Wednesday and undergo fitness checks after a long season in Europe, where all but five of the 23 play.
They will stay in Granja Comary until Sunday before traveling to the central city of Goiania for a June 3 friendly against Panama. Three days later, Brazil will play their final warm-up match against Serbia in Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium.
Then comes the acid test against Croatia in the brand new, much-delayed Corinthians Arena before further pool matches against Mexico in Fortaleza and Cameroon in Brasilia.