BRAZIL BEAT: Lampard braces for birthday 'treat'

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Photo - England national soccer team player Frank Lampard answers a question from a journalist during a press conference after a squad training session that was closed to the media for the 2014 soccer World Cup at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
England national soccer team player Frank Lampard answers a question from a journalist during a press conference after a squad training session that was closed to the media for the 2014 soccer World Cup at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Frank Lampard is bracing himself for his 36th birthday Friday after the England midfielder saw one of the team's staff members receive his "gift."

"It was one of the masseurs' 50th birthday today, so we strapped him and volleyed a few balls at him, as us mature boys do, and that's it. It's light-hearted," Lampard said Tuesday. "That's how it is. You have to have that. We're away a long time. You have to have your moments."

Masseur Paul Small's birthday treat was captured by striker Daniel Sturridge: http://instagram.com/p/pWvQKgHNX1/

— By Rob Harris — www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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FRANCE FRENZY

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Anderson Goncalves Rodrigues was probably the only person not busy rooting for Brazil.

Screaming with delight, waving his green jersey above his head, he ran wild-eyed and whooping.

He had just had his jersey signed by France striker Olivier Giroud and midfielder Paul Pogba at Tuesday's training, where around a dozen or so fans were invited to attend the otherwise closed-doors session.

He didn't even mind that Brazil was playing Mexico at exactly the same time as France was training at Botafogo's Santa Cruz stadium in Ribeirao Preto.

"I don't care if I missed the Brazilian game," he said through a translator. "I would have waited for the French players outside, but the security let me in. And now I have an autograph from Pogba!"

As it turns out, he didn't miss a great deal, anyway, because Brazil was held 0-0 by Mexico.

— By Jerome Pugmire — http://twitter.com/jeromepugmire

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TOURIST TRAP?

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Just below a wooden bridge on the edge of a polluted river, a small caiman found something tasty, and the reptile started chomping away.

Now that's a "tourist trap" no one would want to be caught up in.

But the Mindu Municipal Park is drawing plenty of World Cup fans to its mini-jungle on the edge of Manaus, and Marcel Agueros was one of them.

"This is my sixth World Cup," said the 41-year-old American, an assistant professor at Columbia University in New York.

Agueros said his strategy in coming to World Cups is to pick a town and see what matches and sights he can. This year, he chose Manaus, the most exotic of World Cup venues located deep in the Amazon rainforest, because that was all that was left when he finally got around to buying tickets.

"The Amazon," Agueros said. "Why not?"

— Chris Lehourites — www.twitter.com/chrislehourites

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DISCOUNT DIPLOMACY

OLINDA, Brazil (AP) — The nearly 500-year-old coastal community of Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage site where narrow, cobblestone streets climb a hillside past stucco-sided buildings painted in cheerful shades of yellow, orange, green and blue, finished off with white trim highlighting old-world architectural detail.

There, one might find a handful of residents wearing Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox shirts or baseball caps commemorating the team's 2013 American League Championship Series victory. It won't be long before someone strolls by in a Tyler Seguin Bruins jersey.

Call it discount diplomacy.

Greg Conley, who jokingly refers to himself as "the clearance ambassador," has been to 15 straight Olympics and is now in Brazil, at his eighth consecutive World Cup. Before he leaves for such trips, the 50-year-old Boston native hits the clearance racks, where he often finds bargains on dated sports merchandise, allowing him to stock up.

Ellsbury no longer plays for Boston, and Seguin was traded away by the city's pro hockey team, so their gear is now deeply marked down.

This year, Conley chose a seaside hotel in Olinda, just north of the World Cup host city of Recife, as his base in Brazil.

Conley finds his travels more rewarding if he can offer gifts to those who act particularly friendly or helpful, be it with directions, ordering food or navigating language barriers.

"My philosophy about the Olympics and World Cup is that this is a party, and seven years ago Brazil was awarded the honor of hosting this party, and all of us are guests at their party. My grandparents always said, 'It's best to show up at a party with one arm longer than the other,'" Conley said in his unmistakable Boston accent, pronouncing "arm" like "ahm" and "longer" like "longah."

"Bring wine, cheese, or in this case a Jarrod Saltalamacchia Red Sox shirt. It's the thought that counts. It puts a smile on people's faces."

—By Brett Martel — www.twitter.com/brettmartel

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MESSI'S HOMETOWN

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — They traveled for 50 hours by bus from Lionel Messi's hometown, Rosario, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Argentina star.

On Tuesday, 120 teenage boys from the Renato Cesarini football academy clustered around the entrance of the team's base in Belo Horizonte, all wearing Argentina's blue and white-striped shirt.

After some negotiations with security guards and team officials at the gate, it was agreed that 10 of them would be allowed in to watch Argentina practice.

Named after the late Argentina player and coach Renato Cesarini, the academy has seen several national team players rise through its ranks, including Javier Mascherano and Martin Demichelis.

Messi, however, did not. The Argentina captain moved to Spain and FC Barcelona at 13, which has made it difficult for him to win the hearts of many of his countrymen, despite all his accolades.

The teenagers from Rosario, though, expressed no doubts about Messi's Argentine heart as they jealously watched journalists pass through security.

"People think that because he went abroad he doesn't play with passion for the national team," said Ezequiel Luna, a 17-year-old defender. "But he keeps it well inside. He wears the Argentina shirt with pride."

— By Karl Ritter — http://twitter.com/karl_ritter

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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

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