Sao Paulo -

Anti-government protests are expected in several Brazilian cities on Thursday - with many rallies against the high spending to host next month's World Cup.

The biggest demonstrations are expected in Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo, which will host the Cup opener on June 12, and in Rio de Janeiro, where the final match will take place in July.

It's being viewed as a test of the government's ability to contain protests ahead of football's marquee event.

Last year, massive anti-government protests across Brazil overshadowed the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament to the World Cup, with more than a million people taking to the streets on a single night.

Many of the demonstrations turned violent, with demonstrators and police clashing. At least six people were killed in connection with the protests - most being run over by cars as rallies packed busy streets.

Brazilians are angry at the billions spent to host the World Cup, much of it on 12 ornate football stadiums, one-third of which critics say will see little use after the big event. Those who have taken to the streets call on the government to focus its spending instead on improving the country's woeful health, education, security and infrastructure systems.

Some of Thursday's rallies will also focus on homeless groups calling for free or low-cost housing, and at least two big unions demanding better wages and working conditions, particularly during the World Cup.

The Brazilian government hopes that the Cup and then the 2016 Olympics in Rio will put Brazil in the global spotlight, showing advances the country has made in the past decade in improving its economy, pulling tens of millions out of poverty and its more assertive foreign policy. - Sapa-AP