BRAZIL BEAT: Pros playing pickup game on the beach

Associated Press
Brazil's Oscar, right, passes the ball as Mexico's Marco Fabian closes in during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
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SANTOS, Brazil (AP) — If you are in Brazil for the World Cup, the next time you take a stroll on the beach and see one of the traditional football matches played on the sand, you might want to take a closer look. Some major star could be among those young guys kicking balls.

On Wednesday afternoon, Manchester United striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and six of his teammates on the Mexican team decided to take advantage of the day off given to them after a 0-0 draw with Brazil and spend a few hours playing ball with the locals at Iracema beach.

Along with Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Diego Reyes, Alan Pulido, Raul Jimenez, Marco Fabian and Miguel Ponce went out to put their skills on display on a different surface.

Some Mexican fans who were walking near the beach noticed them and got some cool pictures with the players.

— By Carlos Rodríguez - www.twitter.com/crodriguezap

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CHEERING CHILE

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Dozens of Chileans paraded through a posh shopping and restaurant district in Belo Horizonte, beating drums, waving flags and dancing in the streets after their team knocked Spain out of the World Cup in Rio De Janeiro.

The Chileans had watched the match in the open-air terraces outside cafes and restaurants in the Savassi district, some of whose streets are more reminiscent of Barcelona than Brazil.

The fact that Chile's training base is in Belo Horizonte has drawn many of the South American country's fans to the city. Outside one bar, the raucous Chileans chanted celebratory songs and then sprayed onlookers with beer after the country reached the knockout phase.

__ By Frank Griffiths __ www.twitter.com/fgriffithsap

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BRAZIL TO ITALY

MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) — Thiago Motta got a taste of what he was in for when he was jeered every time he touched the ball during a World Cup warmup match with Brazilian club Fluminense.

Then there were more whistles when the midfielder came on in the second half of Italy's win over England on Saturday.

Born in Brazil, Motta gained Italian citizenship through his grandfather, who was Italian, and was on the Azzurri squad that reached the final of the European Championship.

The local fans here consider him a traitor.

"I'm not thinking about (the whistles) that much," Motta said Wednesday. "I feel like an Italian born in Brazil."

Motta played on Brazil's youth squads but was never under serious consideration for the Selecao.

"I left Brazil at 15 for Europe, spent a long time in Spain and I got used to the European way of playing and way of life," said Motta, who came up through Barcelona's youth system. "Fortunately I have an Italian family and was able to obtain an Italian passport. So I weighed my options and went for Italy."

Motta was on the Inter Milan side that won the Champions League in 2010, and he now plays for French power Paris Saint-Germain.

He's not the only foreign-born player with Italy, as center back Gabriel Paletta was born in Argentina.

"I've always felt Italian," he said.

— By Andrew Dampf — www.twitter.com/asdampf

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SAO PAULO (AP) — Don't text and drive. But how about don't watch the match and drive?

Many Brazilian cab drivers are watching the World Cup games on the screens on top of their dashboards normally used to display GPS maps. With the heavy traffic of Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, and limited parking options in the tourist and business districts, it's the only way they get to watch the tournament.

— By Adriana Gomez Licon — www.twitter.com/agomezlicon

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SULTRY SAMBA

NATAL, Brazil (AP) — The Ponta Negra beach in Natal is as much about football as swimming and sunning.

Groups of boys dart like fish after the ball. One passes to a friend to plunge — and disappear — into the sea.

A young man pushes a wheelbarrow across the sand, hawking pina coladas. Sunbathers slurp from straws sunk into coconuts, cooling off from the daze-inducing Brazilian heat.

The enormous beach towels the vendors drape like curtains are of course Brazilian flags. A young man sells dried fish hanging from a wooden pole he carries on his shoulders.

It's all a sultry samba in the world's greatest football nation.

— By Joji Sakurai — www.twitter.com/jojisakurai

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ROYAL SEAL

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — The Netherlands team got a royal seal of approval after its hard-fought 3-2 win over Australia.

Sports-loving King Willem-Alexander, a former International Olympic Committee member, is a regular cheerleader of Dutch sportsmen and women ranging from field hockey players to footballers and speedskaters, and he wasn't about to miss the chance of another celebration after flying to Porto Alegre for the Group B World Cup match.

"The king and queen were in the changing room and congratulated us," coach Louis van Gaal told reporters. "That was fantastic, beautiful."

Photos of the meeting quickly circulated online showing Willem-Alexander and his Argentina-born wife Maxima, draped in orange scarves, standing in the midst of smiling Dutch players and coaches.

— By Mike Corder — www.twitter.com/mikecorder

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MANICURED FANS

SAO PAULO (AP) — Forget the French manicure. It's Brazil during World Cup, and women here want to flaunt their love of the national team with wacky nail designs.

It's not only the Brazilian flag on the hands of many women here. It's jerseys, footballs, pitches, the World Cup official mascot, and even the face of striker Neymar.

"We like to make our nails look pretty, and we are also big fans of Brazil," said Luciana Costa, the nail designer at the Loar Beauty salon, in central Sao Paulo.

Using a thin brush, Costa painted half the Brazilian flag on one nail of a costumer. She decorated another nail with a ball.

The client, 31-year-old Mara Campos, said it's the second time she is getting a Brazilian design on her nails. Last week, she painted them the three colors of the flag: green, yellow and blue.

"I like not having to worry about what I wear in order to support Brazil," she said. "My nails will be consistent."

After decorating two of her fingers on each hand, she wanted the rest of the nails a royal blue, the favorite color of the moment, not only because of the country's flag but because it's worn by one of the prime-time soap opera's main characters. It's the show starring Neymar's girlfriend, Bruna Marquezine.

— By Adriana Gomez Licon — www.twitter.com/agomezlicon

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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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