BRAZIL BEAT: Mexican fans pack stadium in Natal
MANAUS, Brazil (AP) England tried to get out and about in Manaus on Friday, but the spirited reception from the locals in the Amazonian city made them cut their shopping trip short.
The team went to a mall to look around and experience a little bit of local flavor in the most exotic of the 12 World Cup host sites, where England plays Italy on Saturday in its opener.
Plenty of fans were there to greet them.
''I can't believe the friendliness of the people. I can't believe their enthusiasm,'' England coach Roy Hodgson said. ''But unfortunately the reception was such and the mobbing was such that we had to abort the trip.''
So short that no one was able to buy anything.
''There certainly wasn't any shopping getting done today,'' England captain Steven Gerrard said.
- By Chris Lehourites - www.twitter.com/chrislehourites
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - As the subway begins to slow, the next stop is announced as if it were a game-winning goal.
''Everyone get up on your feet, it's coming! The best in the world - the Maracanaaaaaa,'' bellows the voice over the public address system as the train pulls up to the station serving Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium. ''Get ready to exit on your left. Everyone get up. It's coming, it's coming, it's here! Ma-ra-ca-naaaaaaa!''
The boisterous advisory was developed by Rio's subway system for the World Cup to spread a little football joy during the monthlong tournament and capture the attention of passengers whenever a station popular with tourists is approaching.
The voice belongs to Luiz Penido, a well-known football commentator from Rio's Radio Globo.
But for all of Penido's flash and zeal, it wasn't enough to shake many weary office workers from an end-of-the-week slumber Friday afternoon. Either that, or they were still recovering from the late-night partying that followed Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia a day earlier.
Rio's metro is the main means of transport for fans attending matches at the Maracana. An estimated 80,000 straphangers are expected to ride its rails on match day.
- By Ana Santos - www.twitter.com/anaalmsan
KISS MY FOOT?
RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) - Two youths ran onto the pitch toward the end of France's World Cup training session Friday - one of them because he wanted to kiss striker Karim Benzema's foot.
The first youth sprinted toward Benzema and was intercepted by two security officials, who led him away. He was then taken for questioning by police for about 30 minutes before being released.
''The boy told the police officers that he wanted to kiss Benzema's foot,'' Major Paulo Cesar Belonci said through a translator. ''It was just a joke, but he could have been hurt by trying to jump the gap around the field.''
The field inside Botafogo's Santa Cruz stadium is circled by a large ditch, almost like a medieval moat, with the very intention of preventing intruders.
''The boy didn't commit any crime,'' Belonci said. ''He was just taken to the police so we could inform his father of what he had done.''
Moments later, the second youth - wearing a Manchester United jersey - tried to take a photo with his camera phone before also being led away by security.
It was France's second public training session of the week, and around 5,000 fans came this time.
France opens its World Cup campaign against Honduras on Sunday, and Benzema's popularity seems to be rising by the day in the otherwise sleepy business city of Ribeirao Preto.
The Real Madrid striker was serenaded by fans' chanting, even screaming, of his name, and he gave a polite thumbs-up.
- By Jerome Pugmire - http://twitter.com/jeromepugmire
DETROIT (AP) - World Cup fever spread before the Detroit Tigers hosted the Minnesota Twins in a Major League Baseball game.
Players in both clubhouses were riveted to TVs as the Netherlands routed Spain 5-1 on Friday, when oohs and ahhs could be heard every few minutes.
Two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera loves to watch the game, but said he was not much of a player while growing up in Venezuela.
''I played until I was about 14 years old and was not very good,'' Cabrera said. ''I played defense and only scored one goal in four years.''
Cabrera and teammate Victor Martinez, a fellow Venezuelan, were talking about the World Cup a few hours before they played the Twins.
''Victor is the soccer expert in here,'' Cabrera said.
Martinez predicts the host Brazilians will win the tournament.
''Venezuela has never been in the World Cup,'' Martinez said. ''So, Brazil is my team because they are our neighbors.''
- By Larry Lage - www.twitter.com/LarryLage
BERLIN (AP) - Germany is awash in animal oracles.
Four years after Paul the Octopus correctly predicted the outcome of all seven of the country's World Cup games, some new creatures are making their picks. Suspiciously, though, they both went with Germany.
Regina, a young octopus living in a tank inside the Sea Life aquarium in Berlin, apparently expects the Germans to defeat Portugal in their World Cup opener Monday. The 15-month-old cephalopod prognosticated by opening the lid of one of two boxes installed at a small football goal wall that was dropped into the tank - each containing the same food (parts of two sardines) and covered with a team flag.
Paul, from Oberhausen, died of natural causes in October 2010.
At the zoo in Muenster, an armadillo named Norman quickly rushed through his enclosure toward one of the three small footballs, which was marked with a German national flag. An armadillo is the World Cup mascot.
On Tuesday, a loggerhead turtle named Big Head in Praia Do Forte, Brazil, also made a homer pick - it proved correct, though, when the hosts went on to beat Croatia in the World Cup opener.
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