BRAZIL BEAT: Argentina's 'el Pocho' lightens mood

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — When the coach needs to lighten up, squirt some water on him.

That's what Ezequiel Lavezzi did during Argentina's 3-2 win over Nigeria, and his teammates seem to think it's a good idea.

Lavezzi, a known jokester, was receiving instructions from Alejandro Sabella during Wednesday's match when he sent a squirt from his water bottle right in the coach's face.

Sabella didn't flinch and just kept talking.

Midfielder Ricardo Alvarez said Thursday it's the kind of thing everyone on the team has come to expect from Lavezzi, also known as "el Pocho," or the chubby one.

"We know el Pocho and we know the personality he has," Alvarez said. "These things do good for the group, having a person like el Pocho who is always happy and in a good mood."

After the match, a smiling Lavezzi explained his move by saying he thought the coach needed to lighten up.

What Sabella thought of it remains unclear.

— By Karl Ritter— www.twitter.com/karl_ritter

___

DON'T COME BACK

FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Veteran Greece midfielder Costas Katsouranis is available to play for his country in Sunday's knockout round match against Costa Rica after sitting out a game because of a red card, but fans are hoping he stays on the bench.

A Facebook page unsubtly titled "No to Katsouranis against Costa Rica" has gone viral, picking up more than 90,000 likes, from football supporters who view the 35-year-old Benfica player as slow and bad-tempered.

Katsouranis played an important part in Greece's qualification run and has 113 appearances for the national team, including its stunning victory at the 2004 European Championships.

But in Brazil, Katsouranis' absence in the final group match against Ivory Coast forced lineup changes that saw Greece score its first goals of the tournament for a 2-1 win.

— By Derek Gatopoulos — www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

___

KOREAN FLAVOR

SAO PAULO (AP) — South Korea enjoys strong support in Sao Paulo's Bom Retiro neighborhood.

On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered for a Korean food festival held to get the community together before the team's match against Belgium, also in Sao Paulo. The food ran out early because so many lined up to eat traditional dishes such as fried fish, turnip's broth and hot dogs on sticks covered with French fries.

"We did this today because we wanted to reach out to our Korean community in Brazil," said Minsun Kim, manager of the Korea Agro-Trade Center of Los Angeles, which organized the festival.

In the neighborhood, a lot of businesses such as photo studios, butchers and markets have signs that read only in Korean. Many residents left their homes in the team's red jersey heading to the subway station that would take them to the stadium.

At the festival, children were kicking a soccer ball through a hole in a cardboard cutout with cartoons of Brazil star Neymar and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Underneath the sports celebrities, there were Korean pop artists.

It really wasn't too much about football. Women were trying on traditional tunics while others were watching hip-hop dancers and Taekwondo students perform a routine.

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

___

FLAG FLIP-FLOP

SAO PAULO (AP) — Nothing says Brazil quite like Havaianas.

The world-famous brand of rubber and plastic flip-flops, with the little Brazilian flag on its strap, has become the country's most popular export and a must-have for any visiting tourist.

So naturally during this World Cup, the company's concept store on upscale Rua Oscar Freire has become a pilgrimage of sorts for fans.

Havaianas has adjusted accordingly, launching a line of flip-flops with designs honoring each of the 12 host cities. Even more of a draw is a wall devoted to versions featuring various World Cup teams, with their national flags replacing the trademark one of Brazil. England, Germany and Spain are there, of course, but also Bosnia-Herzegovina and non-World Cup qualifiers like Angola, New Zealand, Peru and Ireland.

In town for his country's final group game against South Korea, 46-year-old Belgian fan Wim Desmedt was decked out in full gear: a team jersey, a black-red-yellow scarf around his neck and even frames to his glasses with the team colors.

Only one thing was missing to complete the outfit — the Belgium-inspired Havaianas in his hands.

"If you say Belgium, people think beer, chocolate and waffles," he said. "When you think of Brazil, it's samba, beaches and Havaianas."

Once a staple of the poor, Havaianas have now become a trendy favorite worldwide for all classes. Although "havaianas" means Hawaiian in Portuguese, the flip-flops have come to symbolize Brazil — especially since 1998 when a new line was introduced with the small Brazilian flag to show support for the team before the World Cup in France.

Now other nations can do the same.

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

___

ENCHANTING NEYMAR?

SAO PAULO (AP) — The cover of the latest issue of Brazilian Playboy carries a photo of a stunning model posing sensuously in a swimming suit with the headline: "Patricia Jordane, the brunette that enchanted Neymar."

Apparently, she wasn't charming enough.

Neymar's agents filed an appeal to a Sao Paulo court to have the edition pulled from newsstands nationwide — and a judge agreed.

Judge Andreia Galgardo Palma ruled the magazine could no longer be sold and ordered its publisher to pick up all unsold copies from newsstands.

The request for the restraining order was made by NR Sports, the company that manages Neymar's career.

In a statement on its website, NR Sports said Wednesday the magazine published a lie about Neymar's personal life and used his name without its authorization. It offered no details.

The judge said the publisher would be fined about $4,500 a day if it failed to obey her order.

Publisher Grupo Abril can appeal the ruling, but had yet to say if it would.

Sergio Xavier, the editor of Brazilian Playboy, said in an email that as yet the magazine hadn't been notified by any legal authority that it had to pull the June edition, and that "the magazine remains available" across the country.

Shortly before Playboy hit the newsstands earlier this month, Jordane told reporters she had once been romantically involved with Neymar.

She said they had dated for about three months in 2013 and that the relationship ended when Neymar started seeing his current girlfriend, Brazilian TV star Bruna Marquezine.

— By Stan Lehman

___

BIG BAD WOLF

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil great Ronaldo got reluctantly dragged into the Luis Suarez quagmire Thursday — and wound up riffing on parenthood and fairytale villains.

At a FIFA news conference, he was asked about the Uruguay striker's suspension for biting an opposing player.

"Why do you want my opinion? I never bit anyone," he answered through a translator.

Then Ronaldo kept going: "But I know that bites hurt. My young kids used to bite me and I used to punish them. In my home, punishment is called 'the dark room with the big bad wolf,' so I suppose for an adult four months with no football is the same."

___

SUAREZ BIT ME!

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Adidas World Cup ad campaign with star players baring their teeth was always a bit iffy when it came to the image of Luis Suarez, considering his history of biting opponents on the pitch.

The shoe company was taking down the Suarez ads after he did it again against Italy, but as of early Thursday, one such poster was still up near Copacabana beach. Amused fans took photos of themselves in front of it appearing to be chomped by the Uruguay striker.

___

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