- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - Spidey Bear sat intently and quietly (as usual) on a table some 8 feet from the TV as Brazil went into a shootout and salvaged its World Cup with a win over Chile.

It has been quite an adventure for the stuffed black bear from Iowa City, who belongs to 6-year-old Graeme Thomas and his 3-year-old brother, Miles, the nephews of U.S. Soccer Federation director of communications Neil Buethe.

The bear in a Spider-Man suit and an occasional mask has accompanied Buethe with the American team before and during the World Cup. The furry friend even met actor Will Farrell this past week in Recife.

“I mentioned maybe I would take a favorite stuffed animal with me across all my travels and take pictures and send them back,” Buethe said. “My sister said, ‘Why don’t you post them on Facebook?’ So that’s what we decided to do. From what I was told there was a big discussion about what stuffed animal was going to make the trip, and Spidey Bear won out. I will say I thought the stuffed animal was going to be much smaller.”

Before the World Cup started, Spidey Bear traveled from Chicago to San Francisco to New York and back to Chicago, then on to Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami before heading to Sao Paulo. All that after he briefly got lost in the mail inside his cardboard box en route from Iowa City to Chicago.

He will reach 21,039 air miles with the upcoming round trip to Salvador for Tuesday’s second-round game against Belgium.

Spidey Bear regularly declines interview requests by staying silent.

“We all know what Spidey says without him having to say it,” Buethe said, laughing.

- By Janie McCauley - www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP

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FORT IN FORTALEZA

FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) - Ask anyone in Fortaleza for directions to the Dutch fort in the center of their city, and you’ll most likely receive a blank stare.

As the Netherlands prepares to play Mexico on Sunday in northeast Brazil, residents appear entirely unaware of the small piece of history they share with the visiting European team.

The Dutch invaded this area nearly 400 years ago and built the fort that eventually gave the city its name. It was later passed to the Portuguese and today serves as a sleepy administrative building for the army, with only the outside grounds open to visitors.

Maicia Morais, a 19-year-old student hired by the city to work as a guide during the World Cup, takes a trickle of visitors around the site, many wandering over from the busy nearby central market and Catholic Cathedral.

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