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BRAZIL BEAT: England goalie Hart OK with new ball

June 11, 2014
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Traditionally, goalkeepers complain with each new-fangled ball introduced at the World Cup. Not this time.

England's Joe Hart isn't worried about the new "Brazuca" from Adidas being used in Brazil. His lack of concern has more to do with opposing forwards' skills than the design of the ball.

"The players have adapted now and they know how to make the ball move — whether we use a rock or the Brazuca," he said Wednesday.

— By Stephen Wade —



SANTO ANDRE, Brazil — Along with the heat and humidity, the German team also has to come to terms with the unusually early kickoff time of its World Cup opener against Portugal.

Monday's match in Salvador kicks off at 1 p.m. local time, 2½ hours earlier than most Bundesliga games. Champions League and national team matches usually kick off at 8:45 p.m.

The German team has left it to individual players to decide how to best adjust.

"This is new for us, so we'll have to see how they adapt," said the team's general manager, Oliver Bierhoff.

There is no set time for breakfast, and a buffet has been opened so that players can decide when and what to eat. The team's practices have now been set for 1 p.m. as of Wednesday to simulate conditions for the opener.

— By Nesha Starcevic



MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) — Luigi Serrano was banging out the notes to the Neapolitan folk song "Reginella" at Casa Azzurri on Wednesday.

He's the official singer at the facility that the Italian football federation sets up at World Cups and European Championships for media and sponsor activities.

As visitors sip strong Italian espresso or taste a plate of pasta, they can listen to classic Italian tunes.

"I specialize in songs from the 60s, which are also very popular here in Brazil — songs by Peppino Di Capri, Mina, Ornella Vanoni," Serrano said.

Serrano is from the southern Italian region of Calabria and works as a pianist and singer at the well-known Jackie O' club off the famed Via Veneto in Rome.

He's been working at Casa Azzurri since the 2008 European Championship in Austria.

So who's the best singer on Italy's squad?

"I think (Antonio) Cassano, if I remember correctly. He's a nice guy," Serrano said. "(Andrea) Pirlo is nice too, but I don't think he sings."

The Italy squad also has a theme song and video created specifically for this World Cup by the Italian group Negramaro:

— By Andrew Dampf —



CAMPINAS, Brazil (AP) — With his cap on backward, Cristiano Ronaldo strolled off a plane, lifted a hand and coolly pointed to acknowledge a bunch of fans who shouted out his name. Another day in the life.

And on his cap? A No. 7, of course, his beloved shirt number.

The Portugal and Real Madrid forward took his first steps in Brazil to yells of "Ronaldo!" as he arrived for the World Cup showing no signs of the left leg injuries that had troubled the world player of the year's buildup to the tournament.

He ambled across the tarmac with his backpack and a kit bag at an airport near Campinas, a city just north of Sao Paulo. Across the runway, red-suited construction workers abandoned their work to line up against a fence, straining to catch a glimpse of him.

Brazil's Neymar and Argentina's Lionel Messi are already here, so Ronaldo completes the top trio of World Cup superstars. Game on.

— By Gerald Imray —



RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Just outside the Maracana Stadium's main entrance, the debate rages on: Who is the greatest football player of all time?

Over here is Argentinian Daniel Gonzalez, wearing Diego Maradona's 1986 World Cup uniform and a wig with his trademark black curls and performing the midfielder's waltzing warm-up routine.

Nearby is rival Marcio Pereira da Silva, dressed in Pele's No. 10 Brazil jersey and juggling a ball with his knees and shoulders.

In the run-up to Thursday's World Cup opener, the two street artists have been competing head-to-head — for the pocket change of fans from around the world, who flock to Brazil's Temple of Soccer, below the statue of 1958 captain Hilderaldo Bellini lifting above his head the first of the country's five championship trophies.

"Maradona and Pele are making peace," Silva said with a smile, stretching his arm around Gonzalez in front of a small crowd that included Mexican soccer fans in tall sombreros, well-dressed street preachers and a sunburnt cyclist who pedaled 3,500 kilometers from Argentina. "The fight is over. Now it's time to party."

The 35-year-old Gonzalez traveled by bus from his hometown of Las Toninas, a beach resort south of Buenos Aires where he works as a leather artisan, to attend the tournament. On a good day, he said he's able to take in 100 reais ($45), enough to pay for his food and lodging at a local hostel.

While he hopes to get inside the Maracana to see Argentina play, his biggest ambition is to meet his idol, the real Maradona, who is in Rio providing commentary for Venezuela's Telesur network.

Silva, 50, says he began entertaining tourists with his freestyle juggling skills after an attempt at a professional playing career failed.

"I wasn't lucky. I had an injury. I tried very hard, but it didn't happen, so I started coaching kids and doing acrobatics," he said.

— By Joshua Goodman —


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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