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    World Cup notebook

    After shocker, Spain faces age-old dilemma

    A Rio police officer tries to move Argentine fans off the road after authorities used pepper spray to control them.
    Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    A Rio police officer tries to move Argentine fans off the road after authorities used pepper spray to control them.

    Spain’s players dismissed notions that a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands spelled the end of an era for the world champions, although coach Vicente del Bosque said it might be time to shake up the lineup for a crucial match against Chile.

    ‘‘I think the majority of people have confidence in us. We accept criticism, but it’s crazy to talk about the end of an era,’’ defender Sergio Ramos said Saturday, a day after Spain endured its worst competitive defeat in 64 years.

    ‘‘Excuses are for losers and Spain has a winning mentality, and that will never change.’’


    Spain’s bid to repeat as world champion could end if it loses Wednesday’s match against Chile at the Maracana. Chile beat Australia, 3-1, in the other Group B match Friday.

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    Del Bosque defended his decision to stick with some of the squad’s older players, saying players such as Xavi Hernandez, Iker Casillas, and Xabi Alonso were the backbone of a team that has provided so much of its success, including qualifying for Brazil.

    ‘‘I sense these players are not too old, but I say that with some hesitation,’’ Del Bosque said.

    ‘‘I believe they have the maturity and the skill to take on this challenge. Those that are over 30 are more responsible because of everything they have won in their careers.

    ‘‘One problem is that we have been so used to having everything go our way. In the face of tough matches we should be prepared to face adversity.’’

    Aussies lose Franjic


    Ivan Franjic has been ruled out of the remainder of Australia’s campaign after injuring his left hamstring in Friday’s 3-1 loss to Chile.

    Franjic was replaced early in the second half and Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said medical scans showed a ‘‘fairly significant tear.’’

    The 26-year-old defender had a difficult start as Australia conceded two early goals, but played a role in the comeback with a cross in the lead-up to Tim Cahill’s goal that made it 2-1 before halftime.

    His absence leaves a hole for Australia at right back for Wednesday’s match against Netherlands, with Ryan McGowan likely to take Franjic’s starting spot.

    Franjic posted comments on his social network accounts, saying he was ‘‘shattered to get the bad news.’’

    Not a welcome guest

    Franz Beckenbauer won’t go to the World Cup in Brazil after being suspended by FIFA for refusing to cooperate with a corruption investigation.


    ‘‘I presume I'm no longer welcome at FIFA,’’ the German football great told Bild newspaper.

    FIFA confirmed that Beckenbauer, who captained and coached West Germany to win World Cups, is barred from attending matches during his ban.

    Beckenbauer is also barred from official duty as Bayern Munich’s global ambassador and as a special adviser to FIFA’s football committee.

    FIFA’s ethics committee suspended Beckenbauer on Friday for declining to help prosecutor Michael Garcia’s probe of alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes. The case against him for noncooperation is being investigated by a member of Garcia’s ethics panel.

    Beckenbauer was a voter on FIFA’s board when it chose Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts in December 2010.

    He refused ‘‘repeated requests for his assistance, including requests that he provide information during an in-person interview or in response to written questions provided in both English and German,’’ FIFA said Friday.

    In a statement on Saturday, FIFA’s deputy ethics judge Alan Sullivan clarified the terms of Beckenbauer’s ban from ‘‘any football-related activity.’’

    It includes ‘‘among other things, being invited to attend or attending on a private basis any football match in any capacity,’’ said Sullivan, an Australian sports lawyer.

    A short fuse

    Tighter security checks have been promised at World Cup stadiums after Chile fans let off fireworks when their team sealed victory over Australia. Saint-Clair Milesi, Brazil’s organizing committee spokesman, says it aims to make security ‘‘even more rigorous.’’ Milesi says the incident in Cuiaba on Friday ‘‘isn’t acceptable for fans and for organizers.’’ Chile fans lit fireworks, sending plumes of smoke across the Arena Pantanal pitch, after Jean Beausejour scored in stoppage time of a 3-1 win. FIFA bans fireworks and flares from stadiums and requires tournament organizers to enforce security checks to prevent fans smuggling them in.

    Hardly a free market

    No meat skewers allowed.

    Brazilian authorities are cracking down on unauthorized sales near World Cup stadiums.

    Police in the host city of Salvador said Saturday they seized thousands of bottles and cans of beverages from brands not sponsoring the World Cup. Authorities said the beverages — including beer, water, and soft drinks — were being illegally sold near the stadium where the Netherlands beat Spain, 5-1, on Friday, in an area where only FIFA-sponsored products can be peddled.

    Police in the northeastern city said in a statement that 269 hats ‘‘illegally using FIFA brands’’ also were seized, along with pamphlets promoting a local concert, three sound systems, a knife-like weapon, and even 100 meat skewers that were on sale near the Arena Fonte Nova stadium.

    Argentines hit Rio

    ‘‘Copacabana belongs to Argentina,’’ shouted Roberto Pons, rubbing his eyes clear of pepper spray as his long, gray hair flowed down his bare back to his Speedo swimsuit.

    The 42-year-old air conditioning repairman was one of about 2,000 rambunctious Argentines who amassed on Rio de Janeiro’s iconic beach to declare the superiority of their team — even before it had taken the field.

    An estimated 50,000 Argentines are believed to have descended on Rio ahead of Argentina’s match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday. Many Brazilians disdainfully speak of an Argentine ‘‘invasion’’ in this most Brazilian of Brazil’s cities.

    Fueled by social media, the impromptu street party Saturday was for the most part a fun-loving affair reflecting Argentina’s high hopes for winning its first championship in nearly three decades.

    Fans dressed in the blue and white colors of the nation’s flag hopped in place to a steady drumbeat, taunting any English supporter who happened to walk by with an in-your-face stadium chant: ‘‘The one not jumping is a Brit!’’

    Another diehard fan wearing a white robe, peaked cap, and mask resembling Pope Francis, who is from Buenos Aires, walked around barefoot blessing anyone who crossed his path.

    As the crowd swelled, a group of vastly outnumbered riot police deployed pepper spray to keep them from blocking traffic on the six-lane Avenida Atlantica running along Copacabana Beach.

    ‘‘You’re acting like little children,’’ barked one cop, night stick drawn.

    Relations on field and off with neighboring Brazil also are full of friction. The two even fight over who has won the most head-to-head matchups over a century of competition, with each side claiming a one or two-win advantage based what counts as ‘‘official.’’

    But whereas Brazilians take in stride their country’s dominance of the sport and status as the world’s seventh-biggest economy, much-smaller and economically unstable Argentina loves to boast about its two World Cup trophies —three less than Brazil — and reputation for producing some of the game’s most-talented stars, including Lionel Messi, four-time FIFA player of the year.

    ‘‘They hate us because we’re the best,’’ said Sergio Bonazza, a 51-year-old lawyer who traveled from Santa Fe, in Argentina’s farm belt, in a 1998 Mercedes Benz bus that he and friends spent six months and more than $40,000 transforming into a 10-man camper.

    In contrast, most Brazilians relish laughing at whom they frequently view as upstart, arrogant neighbors.

    An ad running on television during the World Cup for classifieds website features a talking Maradona couch whose owners have no choice but to vaporize in order to quiet its annoying ‘‘Argentina, Argentina, Argentina’’ chant.

    Renata Parente, a 26-year-old medical student, also couldn’t resist poking fun at the neighborhood intruders on Saturday. Walking back from the beach in a bikini, she cozied up to a group of four Argentine men dressed head to toe in blue and white. As a friend prepared to snap a photo, she flashed a big thumbs down.

    ‘‘I'm going to post it on Facebook,’’ she smiled while quickly slipping away amid the loud protests of the jilted Argentines. ‘‘That’s pretty ballsy to come to Brazil bearing the Argentina flag. They know no shame!’’

    US draws Eriksson

    The World Cup opener for the United States against Ghana in Natal will be refereed by Jonas Eriksson of Sweden.

    Eriksson is a full-time referee who worked the 2012 European Championship.

    The Swedish official’s integrity was questioned this season by Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, after he sent off Martin Demichelis for fouling Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

    The Germany vs. Portugal match in Salvador — also in Group G — will be refereed by Milorad Mazic of Serbia. Nigeria vs. Iran, a Group F match in Curitiba, will be handled by Carlos Vera of Ecuador.

    Late preparations

    As the French team held its final training session inside, frantic efforts were still being made to complete work at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre.

    With less than 24 hours to go before the stadium hosts its first World Cup match, workers were strengthening the perimeter fence, installing sinks in temporary bathrooms, and laying turf Saturday. Piles of bricks and wood lay around outside the 49,989 capacity stadium, along with huge puddles so deep that taxi drivers refused to ford them.

    Inside the stadium, work did appear to be complete. The grass looked lush.

    Despite the ongoing construction, Porto Alegre spokeswoman Nathalia Ely said there was nothing to worry about.

    ‘‘Everything is ready,’’ she said.

    Three bodies found by Rio police

    Police in Rio de Janeiro have found the torched bodies of three people they suspect were victims of an ongoing battle between a drug gang and a criminal militia. The bodies were discovered in the Praca Seca area of Rio. The area has been wracked by tension as a powerful drug gang battles against a militia in the area.

    Free travel in Russia

    Fans with game tickets will be offered free ground transportation between host cities at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

    ‘‘Free travel is a guarantee which we signed at the highest level during our bid,” said Alexey Sorokin .

    He said the free travel would be by train or bus. Though games will played only in the western part of Russia, it still could mean some long trips. Travel has been challenging — and expensive — at the last three major football tournaments, including this World Cup in Brazil, the 2012 European championship, and South Africa’s 2010 World Cup.

    ‘‘We'll come up with a very complicated system of using tickets to the game as tickets to a certain means of transportation,’’ Sorokin said.

    Russia will use 11 cities — and 12 stadium venues — ranging from Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg in the north to Sochi in the south and Yekaterinburg in the east.

    Sorokin acknowledged he had never traveled vast distances on a bus or train in Russia. He estimated a train trip between Moscow and Sochi would be about 18 hours. He said several high-speed trains were currently operating in Russia, and said more might be ready in four years.