BRAZIL BEAT: Born in Brazil, Motta feels Italian

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Italy's Thiago Motta speaks during a press conference at the Casa Azzurri in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Italy play in group D of the Brazil 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

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 —


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 —



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 —



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 —



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 —



SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — He bounces down the palm tree-lined avenue running along a beach in this northeastern Brazilian city, excitedly waving to cars zooming by on their morning commute.

Arioste Farias, a 66-year-old retiree, has become something of a local celebrity in this World Cup city — for spreading his intense cheer and often receiving big smiles, waves and high-fives in return.

So what drives Farias to spread the love?

"I often see that people's minds are full of regret, as if they have done something wrong," he said recently, taking a brief break from his duties to delight. "But you don't need to be so hard on yourself. You don't need to be so stoical."

Even in a nation known for its convivial people — Brazilians routinely rank among the "happiest" populations in international polls — Farias' exuberance stands out.

Farias is "the embodiment of happiness," said Juliana Dourado, who encounters the "Waving Man" on her morning jogs. "Every day, he is always laughing, always positive. He is just an example of a great human being."

— By Ed Brown



MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Match day is a holiday in Manaus, and that makes it a perfect opportunity for local students to head out on the river.

With schools closed Wednesday because of the Croatia-Cameroon match at the Arena da Amazonia, a small group of students learning English hopped on a boat with tourists to see the meeting of the rivers and practice their language skills.

The high schoolers approached foreigners and started conversations with the regular pleasantries, but then proceeded to take the time to explain about the rivers.

Manaus is mainly on the Rio Negro, but just off one side of the city it meets the Amazon River.

The black water of the Rio Negro and the brown water of the Amazon then run side by side for several kilometers, partly because of the different temperatures and partly because of the different speeds at which they flow.

The flow of the students' English wasn't bad, either.

— Chris Lehourites —


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: