- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - They say that football 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 Ruben 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 that 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.

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

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DEFENDING ROONEY

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Don’t blame Wayne Rooney for England’s early World Cup exit. That’s 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 told reporters 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.”

- By Mike Corder - www.twitter.com.mikecorder

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URBAN OASIS

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) - Belo Horizonte’s municipal park is a different world from the noise and grit of the city.

It’s not the Amazon, but lush tropical plants and stands of bamboo line narrow, winding paths in the 45-acre park, making it feel almost as though it’s the middle of a rainforest. The park, which opened in 1897 and is based on French landscaping, is sandwiched between two major avenues. But traffic is barely audible.

With more than 50 different tree species, the park is a gem in the middle of a congested city. The narrow paths eventually open up into larger spaces, and there are three artificial lakes, including one where visitors can rent rowboats. The park is a popular spot on any given day, with families and runners mixing with strolling couples and World Cup tourists.

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