AP PHOTOS: Soccer stars decorate Haiti's minibuses

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) The brightly painted Haitian minibuses known as tap-taps are getting even more colorful in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Although their national team did not qualify for this year's World Cup in Brazil, Haitians are fervent soccer fans and often identify with and root for the Brazilian team. So it's no surprise they are painting the portraits of some of their favorite players on the sides of tap-taps, which are characterized by bright colors and lavish designs, and usually include religious slogans and the portraits of famous people.

Several Haitian artists have spent hours in a Port-au-Prince bus garage decorating the vehicles with the faces of well-known players such as Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona, who will play for his native Argentina in the World Cup, and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who will play for Portugal.

Saintus Dieunor, a 24-year-old artist, used a photograph of Messi's young son Thiago to paint the likeness of the little boy on the side of one tap-tap.

The likeness of FC Barcelona's Neymar, a Brazilian forward, is another popular subject. Brazilians are pinning their hopes on Neymar for the success of their national team at the tournament, just as Argentines are counting on his Barcelona teammate Messi to lead their national team to victory.

Also featured among the portraits is Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The top scorer for Paris Saint-Germain has expressed profound disappointment he won't be able to attend the World Cup after Sweden lost to Portugal 3-2 in a qualifying match late last year. Ronaldo scored all three of Portugal's goals to Ibrahimovic's two.

But Messi seems to be the most popular. His visage smiles out from the back of one of the private taxi shares, providing a splash of bright color on a gray Port-au-Prince street when the bus stops at the top of the hill to let a couple of young schoolgirls get on.