World Cup tidbits

Updated: 2014-06-22 07:02

(China Daily)

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Religiously watching

They say that soccer is a religion in Brazil, so when the World Cup is being played on home soil actual religions have to make some adjustments.

Even before embarking on the traditional prayers to welcome the Jewish sabbath, rabbi Rueben Sternschein had an important announcement to make: Monday's upcoming evening service at the Congregacao Israelita Paulista synagogue was being pushed back 45 minutes so congregants could make it in time after Brazil's game against Cameroon.

Only then was it time for the congregation to begin its usual Friday night service.

Defending Rooney

Don't blame Wayne Rooney for England's early World Cup exit. That is the message from his Manchester United teammate, Robin van Persie, who knows firsthand that when a team plays badly, critics often fault the squad's biggest star.

No fair, says van Persie, who has often said he moved from Arsenal to Manchester United in part so he could play alongside Rooney.

"I don't think you can blame him for scoring one goal, working his socks off and missing three chances by inches - because it was inches," the Netherlands captain said at his team's training camp. "He gave his all for his country, like he always does. He's a great player, a great goal scorer, so I don't think it's fair on him to criticize him that much."

Good advice

All of 21, Romelu Lukaku is already full of coaching advice for Manchester United on how Belgium teammate Marouane Fellaini should be played.

Fellaini is coming off a mediocre season after he was the top transfer for the team, which was marred by injury and the unsuccessful coaching stint of David Moyes.

If only they had taken the advice of Lukaku on how to maximize the midfielder's talents.

"The way he was used last year wasn't the way he should be used in a team," Lukaku said.

"You should play him higher up the pitch. Not really as a No 6 but as a No 8," he said, referring to the central midfield position and one that is farther upfield. "That is his best role because he scores goals and he covers a lot of distance as well."

That is where he usually plays for Belgium, and Fellaini proved his value in the World Cup opener against Algeria by using his bulk and power to get Belgium back in the match with the first goal in what eventually turned into a 2-1 victory. Voila!

Next step: Convince new Man United coach Louis van Gaal, who is still working the Dutch bench in Brazil.

Fan mail

Brazilian players received nearly 6,000 fan letters before the team's practice on Friday.

Two lpostal workers went to the team's camp outside Rio de Janeiro to deliver them.

"This is one of the most gratifying things in our lives," defender David Luiz said at a news conference. "There's nothing better than being able to receive these lettersof support from our fans."

Luiz thanked the delivery personnel for their "hard work," saying that "without you we wouldn't be able to receive this support".

The postal workers posed for photos with Luiz and defender Marcelo before the news conference.

After receiving the letters, Luiz and Marcelo also had an unusual way to decide which player would talk first - they played rock, paper, scissors.

Eyes on ice

The most scrutinized knee in the World Cup was on display again Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo practiced with his Portugal teammates. And that was all anyone could talk about at the team's base in Campinas, with cameras zooming in on the reigning world player of the year's every move.

Team officials sighed when asked about the status of Ronaldo, who has been struggling with a leg injury since before the tournament.

At the team's news conference, the majority of the questions were about Ronaldo, even though he wasn't the one answering them.

Teammate Helder Postiga said he was sick of it.

"After the training today there were 10 players applying ice on themselves. We used three bags of ice! That cannot be a reason to create so many rumors about Cristiano," he said.

Poker star

Max Kruse isn't playing for Germany at the World Cup, so he found another international competition - the World Series of Poker.

The Borussia Moenchengladbach star finished in third place and won $36,494 this week in one of the Las Vegas tournament's 65 events.

Kruse, 26, played in three World Cup qualifiers for Germany but has since fallen out of favor.

It was Kruse's first time playing the 2-7 Draw Lowball variant of poker, so he got a 30-minute tutorial from fellow German and poker star George Danzer before making his strong showing.

The seven-week series features an estimated 80,000 players. Organizers expect to give out $200 million in prize money during the events.

Associated Press

World Cup tidbits

(China Daily 06/22/2014 page12)