BRAZIL BEAT: Brazil players talk to flood victims

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A couple of young soccer fans, watch on a giant screen television Brazil play Cameroon in the soccer World Cup match, in Manaus, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. Brazil’s Neymar scored twice in the first half to lead Brazil to a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday, helping the hosts secure a spot in the second round of the soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

A couple of young soccer fans, watch on a giant screen television Brazil play Cameroon in the soccer World Cup match, in Manaus, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. Brazil’s Neymar scored twice in the first half to lead Brazil to a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday, helping the hosts secure a spot in the second round of the soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Soccer fans donning Brazil’s national team colors pose for a picture with a life-size cutout of soccer star Neymar, after the World Cup match between Brazil and Cameroon, at Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 23, 2014. Brazil’s Neymar scored twice in the first half to lead Brazil to a 4-1 win over Cameroon on Monday, helping the hosts secure a spot in the second round of the soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Soccer fans pose for pictures with a statue of super hero Hulk near the Granja Comary training center, where Brazil is training during the World Cup, in Teresopolis, Brazil, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The statue is in tribute to Brazil’s soccer player named Hulk. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Brazil’s Neymar poses for pictures with fans prior to a training session in Teresopolis, Brazil, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. About fifty children that were victims of floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro state in 2011 watched the training. Brazil will face Chile on June 28 in the round of 16 of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Brazil’s Neymar signs autographs prior to a training session in Teresopolis, Brazil, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. About fifty children that were victims of floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro state in 2011 watched the training. Brazil will face Chile on June 28 in the round of 16 of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — Fifty kids who had their lives affected by the 2011 flooding that killed nearly 1,000 people in the Teresopolis region got to meet Brazil’s team before practice on Wednesday.

The children lined up on one of the training fields and the players talked to them for a few minutes. The youngsters received soccer balls and were allowed to watch the team practice.

The kids were selected from the neighborhoods that were most affected by the heavy rains that ravaged the region in early 2011. The Brazilian federation said some lost their homes and relatives in the tragedy. The floods are considered one of Brazil’s worst natural disasters.

At the time, Brazil’s training camp was used to help authorities in the logistics to search for those missing in the floods.

— By Tales Azzoni – www.twitter.com/tazzoni

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CHURCH OF FOOTBALL

SAO PAULO — There’s really only one place along Sao Paulo’s hectic Avenida Paulista, where you can escape the constant noise of traffic and the hurried movement of people. But even inside the tranquil confines of Paroquia Sao Luis Gonzaga church you still can’t entirely get away from the football fever engulfing Brazil.

Inside the chapel, worshippers kneel in silence. But on one of the empty pews there is a church brochure explaining its World Cup related activities and the public debate surrounding the event.

In the back of the church, discount clothing is being sorted for the needy and a small TV with an antenna is broadcasting a fuzzy image of the Argentina-Nigeria game. Oohs and aahs are heard as Lionel Messi does his magic.

For some, the football obsession goes too far.

“Here in Brazil, everything is about football and that’s why I don’t like it. It’s too much,” said Greta Santos, 21, who came to the church for some quiet after her lunch break.

— By Aron Heller – www.twitter.com/aronhellerap

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SO MANY NEYMARS

SAO PAULO (AP) — The name Neymar is not common in Brazil, or at least it wasn’t until a few years ago, when the star player began scoring goals as a teenager.

Since he started playing professionally with the Santos club in 2009, 371 Neymars have been born in his home state of Sao Paulo, according to the state’s association of registries. Only two were given that name between 1992 and 2008, and one was Brazil’s striker, who was born in Mogi das Cruzes, a suburb in the outskirts of the city of Sao Paulo.

Before Neymar moved to Barcelona last year, he led Santos to the 2010 Brazilian Cup, the 2011 Copa Libertadores and three state championships. He also won FIFA’s award for the best goal of the year in 2011.

If Brazil thrives in the World Cup, expect more Neymars in nurseries.

— By Adriana Gomez Licon – www.twitter.com/agomezlicon

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HULK-ING PHOTO OP

TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) — Fans visiting Brazil’s training camp are lining up for a smashing photo opportunity with a huge statue of the superhero Hulk dressed in a national team jersey.

The statue, located in front of a restaurant just outside the training camp, wears the Selecao’s yellow No. 7, the number worn by the striker who goes by the same name.

“We came to try to see the players, but if they don’t let us, at least we got a photo with someone who we know is part of the team,” joked 17-year-old Brazilian fan Luana de Aguiar.

Brazil’s training sessions in the mountain city of Teresopolis, about an hour from Rio, have been closed to fans, although hundreds show up at the gates every day to try to get a glimpse of their idols.

— By Tales Azzoni – www.twitter.com/tazzoni

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FRENCH CUSTOMS 1, COUNTERFEITERS 0

PARIS (AP) — That’s the score after officials at Paris’ main airport seized a shipment of 30 counterfeit FIFA World Cup trophies, in the first such bust of this year’s World Cup.

The shiny gold-colored statues were to be sold to souvenir shoppers in France. The official World Cup replicas are sold by FIFA for about $130.

The phony trophies had been shipped from China and were intercepted by customs officers at the Charles de Gaulle airport on June 18, the customs office said Wednesday.

The customs office said the trophies will be destroyed.

Associated Press

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