BRAZIL BEAT: Italy star Mario Balotelli wants a royal kiss if Azzurri help England

The Associated Press

Italy's Alberto Aquilani, left, and Mario Balotelli pose for photos with children at their training session in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Italy plays in group D at the soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Associated Press + More

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — England now needs Italy's help to keep alive its slim chances of advancing at the World Cup.

Presumably Queen Elizabeth II would be pleased if England moves on, so Italy star Mario Balotelli is already contemplating what would happen should his team provide an assist. He tweeted Thursday after England lost to Uruguay: "If we beat Costa Rica i want a kiss, obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen." That was followed by three emoticons of a smiley face laughing so hard tears spurt from its eyes.

Even though the English lost their first two matches, they could still potentially advance on goal difference if Italy defeats Costa Rica and Uruguay and England beats Costa Rica. The Italians face Costa Rica on Friday.



RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Dutch television host and actress has quit as an ambassador for her country's national committee of the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, after tweeting a photo that had been manipulated to appear to show two Colombian footballers snorting white lines off the pitch.

Nicolette van Dam had earlier apologized and removed the offending tweet after media in Colombia reacted angrily to the fake photo, which was clearly intended to link Colombia with cocaine use.

"Queridos Colombianos, there was no offense intended from my side," she tweeted. "Please accept my honest and sincere apologies. #RespectColombia."

UNICEF condemned the post Thursday in a statement out of New York, calling it "inappropriate and highly offensive."

The Dutch national committee of UNICEF said on its website that Van Dam had quit "out of respect for our work," adding that the reactions to her insensitive tweet Wednesday had made her position as ambassador "untenable."

Van Dam "had not realized that there was so much sensitivity in South America about this issue," the statement said.

— By Mike Corder —



SAO PAULO (AP) — Kyle Beckerman lived in Colorado 12 years ago when the U.S. held on to beat Portugal 3-2 in a group stage match at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. He remembers watching the game — sort of.

Beckerman fell asleep briefly, then awoke to see the halftime score with the Americans leading 3-0. The game was played in the middle of the night Colorado time.

Now, the 32-year-old American midfielder is preparing to face Portugal in a Group G match Sunday in Manaus.

Beckerman watched the '02 World Cup after being selected 11th overall by the Colorado Rapids in the Major League Soccer draft that year.

"I think I kind of dozed off because it was 2 or 3 in the morning," Beckerman recalled Thursday. "And I woke up and looked at the score and thought it was a typo, because it said 3-0 USA. When I realized it wasn't a typo, I jumped up and was going crazy for the team. It was all about holding on for the win, which they did."

— By Janie McCauley —



RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Robin van Persie took some family time at a training session Thursday, sitting with wife Bouchra and his two young children in the stands while his Netherlands teammates played a practice game.

The Manchester United striker, who has three goals in two games at the World Cup for the impressive Dutch, spent around 30 minutes with his family at the top of the steep concrete stands overlooking the Estadio Gavea field.

Down below, some of the Netherlands reserves trained, with Van Persie sometimes shouting out encouragement to his teammates.

Van Persie was one of a number of starters who took it easy, with winger Arjen Robben and midfielder Nigel de Jong also earning a break a day after a 3-2 win over Australia sealed a place in the last 16 for the Dutch.

Van Persie won't play in the Netherlands' Group B finale against Chile on Monday after receiving two yellow cards.

— By Gerald Imray —