NATAL, Brazil (AP) — The Ponta Negra beach in Natal is as much about football as swimming and sunning.
Groups of boys dart like fish after the ball. One passes to a friend to plunge — and disappear — into the sea.
A young man pushes a wheelbarrow across the sand, hawking pina coladas. Sunbathers slurp from straws sunk into coconuts, cooling off from the daze-inducing Brazilian heat.
The enormous beach towels the vendors drape like curtains are of course Brazilian flags. A young man sells dried fish hanging from a wooden pole he carries on his shoulders.
It's all a sultry samba in the world's greatest football nation.
— By Joji Sakurai — www.twitter.com/jojisakurai
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — The Netherlands team got a royal seal of approval after its hard-fought 3-2 win over Australia.
Sports-loving King Willem-Alexander, a former International Olympic Committee member, is a regular cheerleader of Dutch sportsmen and women ranging from field hockey players to footballers and speedskaters, and he wasn't about to miss the chance of another celebration after flying to Porto Alegre for the Group B World Cup match.
"The king and queen were in the changing room and congratulated us," coach Louis van Gaal told reporters. "That was fantastic, beautiful."
Photos of the meeting quickly circulated online showing Willem-Alexander and his Argentina-born wife Maxima, draped in orange scarves, standing in the midst of smiling Dutch players and coaches.
— By Mike Corder — www.twitter.com/mikecorder
SAO PAULO (AP) — Forget the French manicure. It's Brazil during World Cup, and women here want to flaunt their love of the national team with wacky nail designs.
It's not only the Brazilian flag on the hands of many women here. It's jerseys, footballs, pitches, the World Cup official mascot, and even the face of striker Neymar.
"We like to make our nails look pretty, and we are also big fans of Brazil," said Luciana Costa, the nail designer at the Loar Beauty salon, in central Sao Paulo.
Using a thin brush, Costa painted half the Brazilian flag on one nail of a costumer. She decorated another nail with a ball.
The client, 31-year-old Mara Campos, said it's the second time she is getting a Brazilian design on her nails. Last week, she painted them the three colors of the flag: green, yellow and blue.
"I like not having to worry about what I wear in order to support Brazil," she said. "My nails will be consistent."
After decorating two of her fingers on each hand, she wanted the rest of the nails a royal blue, the favorite color of the moment, not only because of the country's flag but because it's worn by one of the prime-time soap opera's main characters. It's the show starring Neymar's girlfriend, Bruna Marquezine.
— By Adriana Gomez Licon — www.twitter.com/agomezlicon
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — He bounces down the palm tree-lined avenue running along a beach in this northeastern Brazilian city, excitedly waving to cars zooming by on their morning commute.
Arioste Farias, a 66-year-old retiree, has become something of a local celebrity in this World Cup city — for spreading his intense cheer and often receiving big smiles, waves and high-fives in return.
So what drives Farias to spread the love?
"I often see that people's minds are full of regret, as if they have done something wrong," he said recently, taking a brief break from his duties to delight. "But you don't need to be so hard on yourself. You don't need to be so stoical."
Even in a nation known for its convivial people — Brazilians routinely rank among the "happiest" populations in international polls — Farias' exuberance stands out.
Farias is "the embodiment of happiness," said Juliana Dourado, who encounters the "Waving Man" on her morning jogs. "Every day, he is always laughing, always positive. He is just an example of a great human being."
— By Ed Brown
MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Match day is a holiday in Manaus, and that makes it a perfect opportunity for local students to head out on the river.
With schools closed Wednesday because of the Croatia-Cameroon match at the Arena da Amazonia, a small group of students learning English hopped on a boat with tourists to see the meeting of the rivers and practice their language skills.
The high schoolers approached foreigners and started conversations with the regular pleasantries, but then proceeded to take the time to explain about the rivers.
Manaus is mainly on the Rio Negro, but just off one side of the city it meets the Amazon River.
The black water of the Rio Negro and the brown water of the Amazon then run side by side for several kilometers, partly because of the different temperatures and partly because of the different speeds at which they flow.
The flow of the students' English wasn't bad, either.
— Chris Lehourites — www.twitter.com/chrislehourites
FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Their capes and mariachi outfits now looking a little rumpled, there are Mexican fans still celebrating in Fortaleza a day after their team held the hosts 0-0.
After the match, Mexico supporters flocked to the beachfront in this northeast city, joining Brazilians in rollicking festivities around the Fan Fest, generator-powered roadside food stalls, and makeshift alcohol stands where the drinks are kept cool in Styrofoam boxes.
At Habib's Restaurant, offering a mixture of local and Middle Eastern food, Brazil and Mexico fans laughed, danced, and posed for photographs into the wee hours as they took turns singing insults to each other, with staff joining in.
The visitors chanted "Messi, Messi, Messico!" taunting the Brazilians with the name of Argentine star Lionel Messi. The locals responded with the national anthem.
One rowdy Mexican dressed in an embroidered folk costume was lifted off a table by a security guard, but they later hugged one another and the celebrations resumed.
A city of about 2.5 million, Fortaleza has delighted in seeing foreign visitors. A taxi driver might snap a selfie with his customers if their home country sounds exotic.
— By Derek Gatopoulos — www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos
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