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BRAZIL BEAT: Van Persie takes it easy at practice

June 19, 2014
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Robin van Persie took some family time at a training session Thursday, sitting with wife Bouchra and his two young children in the stands while his Netherlands teammates played a practice game.

The Manchester United striker, who has three goals in two games at the World Cup for the impressive Dutch, spent around 30 minutes with his family at the top of the steep concrete stands overlooking the Estadio Gavea field.

Down below, some of the Netherlands reserves trained, with Van Persie sometimes shouting out encouragement to his teammates.

Van Persie was one of a number of starters who took it easy, with winger Arjen Robben and midfielder Nigel de Jong also earning a break a day after a 3-2 win over Australia sealed a place in the last 16 for the Dutch.

Van Persie won't play in the Netherlands' Group B finale against Chile on Monday after receiving two yellow cards.

— By Gerald Imray —



SAO PAULO (AP) — For the throngs of English and Uruguayan fans streaming into Itaquerao Stadium on Thursday, there was only one topic of conversation: Luis Suarez.

The Uruguay star and Liverpool striker returned from injury for the critical match between the two countries. Sure enough, he headed in the game's first goal to give Uruguay a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.

Suarez, who scored a Premier League-leading 31 goals in England this past season, hasn't played since May 11. He underwent surgery on his left knee 11 days later.

"I'm worried about Suarez. I'm a Man U fan — he always causes us lots of trouble," said 35-year-old Londoner Sam Sandif. "He's the player who can do some damage. I hope we kick him hard early."

As a Liverpool fan, 45-year-old Nick Staples said he was partial to Suarez. But he wasn't too concerned about the player's well-being on this day.

"I hope we beat them 5-0 and Suarez goes off the field in a fit of tears. Today, I couldn't give a (expletive) about Suarez," Staples said, smiling.

Maria Belen, 24-year-old Uruguay fan, was sporting fake eyelashes the color of the country's blue and white flag.

"Suarez knows how to play England," she said. "We have Suarez — he is everything."

— By Aron Heller —



SAO PAULO (AP) — Mario Sergio Conti, a well-known Brazilian syndicated columnist, couldn't believe his eyes Wednesday when he boarded a plane going from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo.

There, sitting in one of the seats, was none other than the coach of Brazil's national team, Felipe Scolari. Or so he thought.

The man was really Vladimir Palomo, a Scolari lookalike who did not reveal his real identity when he gave Conti an interview in which among other things he said he was surprised by Spain's early elimination from the World Cup, praised Neymar and said Italy, the Netherlands and Germany were Brazil's biggest rivals.

The interview was published Wednesday night by the websites of the influential Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo newspapers, which hours later took down the story when it was revealed Scolari was not on the plane and that he had spent the day in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.

The two websites published corrections and apologies.

"Mario Sergio apologizes to Scolari, Palomo and its readers for the confusion," the Folha de S.Paulo news website said.

— By Stan Lehman



CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — You've got to feel for the football fans of Curitiba.

First, when the draw for the 2014 World Cup took place last year, the southern Brazilian city's allocation of games, with all due respect to the teams involved, wasn't as high-profile as others.

Well, at least the fans would get to see Spain, the defending champion.

They will still see Spain on Monday, but it will be a team that has already been eliminated from the tournament. Not only that, but Spain's opponent at the Arena da Baixada, Australia, also can't advance.

It's what is known in the parlance as a dead rubber, a game bereft of meaningful consequence.

The disappointment is evident throughout this well-manicured city that has been at the forefront of urban planning in Brazil and beyond.

One FIFA volunteer, who wouldn't give his name in line with the football governing body's scriptures, said everyone was "naturally upset" as Spain was the highlight in the city's World Cup allocation.

Curitiba's football fans have already seen one game, but the 0-0 draw between Iran and Nigeria was a fairly drab affair with few chances.

The other two matches in Curitiba are Ecuador-Honduras on Friday and Russia-Algeria next Thursday.

— By Pan Pylas —



SAO PAULO (AP) — The perpetual traffic jam in South America's most populous city lifted Thursday, and the 4-mile ride from downtown to the U.S. team's training camp at Sao Paulo Futebol Clube took just 15 minutes, down from two hours two days earlier.

Most businesses were closed because of the Feast of Corpus Christi holiday, which is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

— By Ronald Blum —



SAO PAULO (AP) — Lydia Gibbons walked through Sao Paulo's hip Vila Madalena neighborhood late Wednesday with a pathetic pout on her face. Acting a little bit, she hoped, might just help her cause.

The 28-year-old from England held a homemade cardboard sign reading: "TICKETS NEEDED ENGLAND VS URUGUAY" featuring hand-drawn flags for each country.

Her friend, Tarso Liang of Brazil, said they wouldn't be picky about who they cheered for if they actually got into Itaquerao Stadium for Thursday's Group D match between teams that lost their openers.

"If you have tickets we can be England or Uruguay," Liang said. "She's English, but I can cheer for anybody."

Thousands of English fans took to the street in this area packed with sports bars, many buying their drinks from giant coolers in the middle of the road and paying with credit cards at these outdoor establishments.

—By Janie McCauley —



NATAL, Brazil (AP) — Japan and Greece were set to play a critical Group C match on Thursday night, but the Greeks got a bellyful of Japanese before they even came to Brazil.

Greece coach Fernando Santos took his team to lunch at a Japanese restaurant in Athens, where they snacked on sushi and sashimi.

Santos says it is his favorite restaurant, but it was chosen by a team sponsor. He called the meal and the match against Japan a coincidence.

"Well, this is probably the restaurant that I go (most) often in Greece. I often go there with my family, my wife, my children. It's a great restaurant," Santos said.

"I invite you to come," Santos told the Japanese journalist who asked him about it. "The food is wonderful."

— By Jim Vertuno —


Associated Press reporters will be filing dispatches about happenings in and around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. Follow AP journalists covering the World Cup on Twitter:



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