RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Ben Williams sacrificed his salary as a teacher for six months so he could prepare for the World Cup. On Sunday, it paid off. Williams became the first Australian referee to control a second-round match at a World Cup during the game between Costa Rica and Greece.
So the match provided a first for three countries — Costa Rica and Greece had never previously qualified for the knockout stages at the sport's marquee tournament.
The 37-year-old Williams is usually a teacher at a government school in Canberra, the national capital. He handled two group matches in Brazil.
Before the tournament, he told the domestic media that he didn't mind taking unpaid leave from his day job to chase a dream.
"It's a bit strange to see the fortnightly pay slip come through with all zeroes, but it's a sacrifice that's definitely worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Williams told reporters.
He had a busy day Sunday, sending off Costa Rica's Oscar Duarte in the 66th minute, along with seven yellow cards.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Sao Paulo Futebol Clube players run onto the field to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." It's apparently a favorite of longtime captain Rogerio Ceni.
This team has a storied history in its sprawling city and an entire room filled with trophies to show for it.
Players stop to pray beneath a crucifix in their warmup area at Cicero Pompeu de Toledo Stadium, more commonly called Morumbi after its surrounding neighborhood.
A wall of accomplished Sao Paulo FC players from the Selecao's past World Cup winners is adjacent to a statue of the team's bearded, halo-wearing uniformed mascot, Saint Paul.
There's little chance of players losing their lockers: Each space has a giant poster of its occupant with his name.
And it's only fitting that on one side of the 67,000-seat stadium, the street is called Avenida Jules Rimet after the president of FIFA from 1921-54 whose name was on the original World Cup trophy. The trophy was used through 1970, when it was retired after Brazil's third win, and later disappeared.
— By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — A short walk from the World Cup Fan Fest site in a neighborhood known as "Recife Antiga," or "Old Recife," is a cobblestone street called Rua do Bom Jesus.
In the middle of the block is a two-story, tan-painted stucco building with arched windows and doors that has been an attraction for those interested in religious history — Jewish history, in particular.
The building sits upon the ruins of what is widely accepted to have been the first synagogue built in the Americas.
In fact, the first Jewish community in New York was comprised of the same people who prayed at Kahal Zur Israel, near the port of Recife, in the first half of the 1600s, but who were forced out when Portuguese colonists retook power in the area from the Dutch (and changed the name of the street once called Roa dos Judeus.)
The building is now a Jewish memorial and cultural center. It was restored to look much as the synagogue would have when it was the center of Jewish life in Recife. The restoration also includes viewing areas of ruins discovered below ground level, including a ritual bath called a mikvah.
Recife was initially settled by the Portuguese in the 1530s, but the Dutch invaded in 1630 and ruled the region for 24 years. It was during this period that Jews who had previously settled in Amsterdam, many of them of Portuguese descent, began moving to Recife for business and religious purposes.
— By Brett Martel — www.twitter.com/brettmartel
CELEBRATION TO SADNESS
SAO PAULO (AP) — Mario Alejandro Barrientos hid his hurt over Mexico's World Cup elimination beneath the brim of a humongous sombrero.
Barrientos, a 28-year-old from Guanajuato, had planned on spending Sunday night celebrating a Mexico win with friend Moses Villaba. The Netherlands changed his fortunes with a 2-1 comeback victory.
"I feel terrible right now. My heart hurts. Too close, too close," Barrientos said in English, then added in Spanish, "Muy triste," or so sad.
Fighting tears, he added, "Ten minutes earlier I was almost celebrating for Mexico to move on. Now, no," while giving a thumbs down sign.
Barrientos and Villaba watched the last moments of the heartbreaker in a taxi before checking in to their Sao Paulo hotel.
"We were going to go out and celebrate," said Villaba, from Tijuana. "Now it's going to be sad."
— By Janie McCauley and Aron Heller — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP — www.twitter.com/aronhellerap
RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — A gas station in rural northeastern Brazil turned into an impromptu World Cup viewing party.
Fans headed to the match between Costa Rica and Greece had to leave early: Arena Pernambuco is more than 15 kilometers from the tourist beach of Boa Viagem. The trip can take a good hour-and-a-half on public transportation.
The problem is fans wanted to watch Sunday's early match between the Netherlands and Mexico, which determined the next opponent for the winner of the game in Recife. So many arrived early and walked a mile to the nearest highway to find a gas station with a 42-inch TV.
Quickly, some 200 people had gathered there— Mexicans, Brazilians, Costa Ricans, Dutch. Locals began grilling hot dogs and chicken for the fans, and the gas station closed service for cars and instead set out picnic tables for the foreign visitors.
— By Adriana Gomez Licon — www.twitter.com/agomezlicon
FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — As the shadows shifted across the Arena Castelao, sections of stands emptied and filled during Sunday's round of 16 match between the Netherlands and Mexico. With an early afternoon start on a hot, muggy day in northeastern Brazil, many fans abandoned their seats when the sun beat down on them in an otherwise full stadium.
Referee Pedro Proenca briefly halted play just after the 30-minute mark for a cooling break, allowing both teams to rehydrate.
SAO PAULO (AP) — With Sao Paulo gripped in World Cup fever, all sorts of people are adorned in yellow and green Brazil team gear. But dogs?
At Parque Trainon, dog owners appear to have imposed their loyalties on their four-legged friends. Dogs of all shapes and sizes have been spotted with Brazilian flags around their collars, capes over the shoulders, even hats wrapped around their floppy ears.
One canine, 4-year-old Nino, had a blue Brazil outfit wrapped around his small body. His owner said it was to protect against a rash. But she had no medical excuse for the baseball cap over his head. It was her son's idea of showing support after Brazil won a penalty shootout with Chile.
Nino's Sunday morning playmate, a 6-year-old mutt named Nina, had more straightforward attire: a plain yellow jumper featuring Neymar's No. 10.
"I think it's cute," said her owner, Luiza Jatoba, 54. "It's in honor of the World Cup. These days it's the only thing we think about."
— By Aron Heller — www.twitter.com/aronhellerap
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