BRAZIL BEAT: Mexico coach Herrera embraces Twitter

Associated Press
Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera talks to the press before a training session in Santos, Brazil, Friday, June 20, 2014. Mexico plays in group A at the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Selfies, elaborate jokes, photo bombs involving his squad's biggest stars and now exclusive team news. Mexico's Miguel Herrera is not one of those national team coaches afraid of Twitter.

In the past month, the 46-year-old former player has seen the number of people following him on Twitter more than double. On Friday, he revealed in a tweet that he intends to use the same lineup for Monday's crucial final group game against Croatia as he did for the 0-0 draw with Brazil. Surely that will add many more to the 619,000 people currently following @MiguelHerreraDT.

The man who generally goes by the nickname Piojo (louse) has proved a hit on and off the pitch. He's set an example for the relaxed atmosphere at Mexico's base in Santos. Piojo has happily signed countless autographs and posed for pictures — many of them destined for social media — for the fans outside the team hotel.

Short, squat, smiling and capable of saying anything — he labeled Bosnia-Herzegovina players "pigs" after what he saw as unfair substitutions during a World Cup warm-up match earlier this month — Herrera is social media's dream manager. Just don't get him started on Fabio Capello, the Italian coach of the Russia national team, who has banned all his players from using Twitter.

— By Luke Norman

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IMPOSSIBLE TRAFFIC

SAO PAULO (AP) — Sao Paulo city officials are hoping for the impossible: avoid a massive traffic jam Monday when Brazil meets Cameroon in Brasilia and Chile takes on the Netherlands at the Itaquerao Stadium in South America's biggest city.

They fear a repeat of last Tuesday's chaos when choking congestion brought the city to a near standstill as fans rushed home to watch the Brazil-Mexico game, causing more than 300 kilometers of traffic jams at a time of day when the average is less than 40 kilometers.

Even Brazil great Pele got stuck and had to watch the first half in his car as he traveled from Santos to Sao Paulo.

The stage for a chaotic traffic situation Monday was set earlier this week when Sao Paulo's City Council refused to declare a holiday for Brazil's upcoming World Cup games.

Mayor Fernando Haddad countered by decreeing that municipal civil servants and students at the city's public schools will have the day off Monday.

Banks, stores and factories have also agreed to close some two hours early to give employees time to get home on time for the Brazil-Cameroon game and avoid major traffic snarls.

— By Stan Lehman

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FAN CLASHES

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — A large group of mostly Brazilian and Argentine World Cup fans got into a large street clash early Saturday, tossing beer bottles and insults at one another.

Police said the action took place around 2 a.m. in Belo Horizonte, where Argentina is playing Iran.

Police say they have no reports of injuries and would not confirm if there were any arrests.

It's not clear who started the fight.

In eyewitness videos of the incident, a group of a few dozen Argentina fans are seen waving their country's flag and hurling beer bottles at Brazil fans about 50 meters away.

The Brazilians responded with their own volley of bottles, while some fans took cover under large beach umbrellas.

The violence elicited boos from bystanders, while clusters of Brazilians taunted Argentines by chanting, "We're five-time champs!"

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DIRK'S PRIORITIES

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki had to make sure organizers of his celebrity baseball game in the Dallas area knew where the 7-foot German's priorities were.

The annual charity event with his name on it was set for the first pitch about four hours after the start of Germany's World Cup match against Ghana on Saturday. It certainly tightened the window for Nowitzki's pregame activities.

"I told them I can't come here before 4:30," Nowitzki said the day before his game, drawing laughs from reporters. "I can't leave in the second half of a tight game."

Of course, Germany could always make things easier for the country's most famous basketball player by doing what it did to Portugal in the opener — taking a 3-0 halftime lead. Even then, it'll be hard to pull Nowitzki away from the TV.

"For every German, it's huge," the 2011 NBA Finals MVP said. "We have to watch every game. I had my jersey on for Game 1. I had my scarf. So I'm ready to roll."

— By Schuyler Dixon — www.twitter.com/apschuyler

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MARADONA MAKES IT

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Diego Maradona made it into the stands this time.

After claiming he was blocked from watching his country play its World Cup opener, the Argentina great sat in the crowd Saturday at Mineirao Stadium for the match against Iran.

Maradona, who captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, has been one of FIFA's fiercest and most regular critics. The sport's governing body said that he simply didn't have the proper credentials last Sunday.

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STILL SINGING

SAO PAULO (AP) — Luiz Antonio Mazzulli still plays his guitar and sings six nights a week at Cantina Roperto, a landmark since 1941 in the heart of Sao Paulo's Italian neighborhood, Bixiga. He has been a fixture here for 17 years.

At 72, Mazzulli is loving every minute of it, playing a mix of Italian and Brazilian favorites and a few classics such as Tony Bennett's "Tender is the Night" and "From Russia With Love" by Matt Monro.

And Mazzulli — whose grandfather is from Calabria, Italy, his mother's family from Spain — still keeps a day job in the cardiology and geriatrics office of his niece.

For the past five years at the bustling Cantina Roperto, Mazzulli has been spending from 8 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday entertaining a late-night dinner crowd that often sings right along.

"It's not a job. It's my pleasure to play my guitar," Mazzulli said.

He once had a monthlong gig in 1984 on a cruise ship that left Brazil for Buenos Aires and on occasion would make a stop in Uruguay, with the well-known rough waters on that voyage.

"For me, it was a party," said Mazzulli, who grew up in the Brazilian countryside city of Sorocaba and came to Sao Paulo to work for his sister in her psychiatry business.

Mazzulli began taking guitar lessons at 13 but never had formal voice instruction, saying, "I just taught myself."

He walked to a wall of photos in the restaurant and points to former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso — and there is a striking resemblance.

"They say I look like Cardoso," Mazzulli said, then walked away to play another song.

— By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP

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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: https://twitter.com/AP_Sports/world-cup-2014

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