SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Canada had rare representation at the World Cup in Friday's rematch between the Netherlands and Spain.
Toronto-born midfielder Jonathan de Guzman was in the starting lineup for the Dutch, one of coach Louis van Gaal's key components for trying to stymie the title holder's quick-touch possession game.
The Canadian national team has appeared just once at the World Cup — in 1986, when it lost all three of its group matches against the Soviet Union, France and Hungary without scoring a goal.
At Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova, several Canadian flags could even be spotted amid the orange jerseys of the Dutch fans.
De Guzman is also familiar with Spain's players, having played at Spanish clubs Mallorca and Villarreal previously.
— By Paul Logothetis — www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Directly across the street from Rio's famed Maracana Stadium, the owner of Rio Bebidas, a store selling beer by Brazilian beverage giant Ambev, ordered his workers to cover up the store sign.
The employees weren't sure why, but they suspected it might have something to do with World Cup sponsorship rules — and the Coca-Cola sunshades that went up on the neighboring restaurants.
— By Jenny Barchfield — www.twitter.com/JennyBarchfield
PLAYERS TURNED FANS
SAO PAULO (AP) — U.S. central defender Matt Besler made a point to move toward his hotel room window to witness the pandemonium.
He got a quick lesson on just how much soccer means to the fanatical Brazilians, who beat Croatia 3-1 on Thursday to kick off their home World Cup.
"I was up in my room for the second half and I had my window cracked open a little bit," Besler said Friday as the U.S. prepared to travel to Natal for its Monday opener against Ghana. "When Brazil scored those two goals in the second half and again on the final whistle, I heard the entire city of Sao Paulo roar. It gave me chills. It was just so cool. I was watching on my TV and I saw the ref blow the final whistle and then the two-second delay, I heard an eruption in the city. The energy of the country, it's finally here."
For one night, at least, most of the Americans allowed themselves to sit back and enjoy the game for the moment it was.
"Part of us were watching as soccer players and professionals trying to scout a little bit certain teams, but a lot of us, we were watching as fans," Besler said. "We really felt like this whole thing kicked off, because it did."
— By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
SOFAS IN STADIUM
BERLIN (AP) — A German football club's stadium has been turned into a huge "living room" for fans to watch the World Cup on a giant screen from the comfort of their very own sofas.
Union Berlin, which plays in the second division, invited fans to place their couches on its Alte Foersterei pitch for the duration of the tournament in Brazil, or at least as long as Germany is still in it.
Organizer Gerald Ponesky says he got the idea "to give football a home."
The pitch is covered in sofas - 780 are registered for around 3,000 fans - each flanked by a desk and atmospheric lamp. Another 9,000 supporters can watch games from the surrounding stands, which have been decorated with wallpaper to create a cozy World Cup atmosphere.
Covers are provided in case it rains.
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Locals were taking to Salvador's streets before Friday's Spain-Netherlands match — not to protest the World Cup, but to play football.
Police were redirecting traffic away from the Arena Fonte Nova stadium, so choking gridlock gave way to several kilometers of empty streets used only by FIFA-accredited vehicles.
With all that pavement to spare, locals set up impromptu games along the road.
It was mostly children playing in bare feet, occasionally pausing to let vehicles through and wave on visitors.
— By Paul Logothetis — www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP
AZTECA IN NATAL
NATAL, Brazil (AP) — The country's federation said that at least 15,000 Mexicans bought tickets for its World Cup opener against Cameroon. That number probably was too low.
The Arena das Dunas looked like a branch of Azteca stadium with all of its chants and peculiar fans Friday. Many wore the traditional Mexican sombreros, which got a different use this time in a downpour.
"My sombrero was my umbrella today," said Humberto Garcia, who traveled to Brazil from Mexico City along with his two friends. "I did not expect this kind of weather, so I did not have anything for the rain, so the sombrero kind of helped with that."
The new trend among Mexicans is to wear the Lucha libre (wrestling) mask. The most common one had red on one side and green on the other, similar to that used by Rey Misterio Jr.
Five Mexicans used their shirts to spell O R I B E, the first name of striker Peralta, a fan favorite over Javier Hernandez.
— By Carlos Rodriguez — www.twitter.com/crodriguezap
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