BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Argentina is not just facing Iran's national football team, but its culture and war-torn history, too, when the two teams go head to head at the Mineirao Stadium on Saturday.
At least if you believe Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, who strayed beyond sport when he analyzed the Iranians on Friday before their Group F match.
"It's a team that has to do with the Iranian culture," Sabella said. "A country that has been through wars. A country that is physically and mentally strong."
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.
He didn't explain how that affects the way Iran plays football, but said he expected Iran to try to hurt Argentina on set pieces and counter-attacks.
— By Karl Ritter - www.twitter.com/karl_ritter
SAO PAULO (AP) — U.S. forward Jozy Altidore slowly made his way to the field Friday at Sao Paulo Futebol Club accompanied by trainers, his injured left leg taped.
Altidore was still smiling — even if this is hardly the way he envisioned his World Cup going.
"I'm hanging in there," he said.
The Sunderland striker, who scored twice in his team's final sendoff series match against Nigeria, strained his left hamstring in the first half of Monday's 2-1 victory against Ghana in Natal. He will miss Sunday's second Group G match against Portugal at Manaus.
Teammates and coach Jurgen Klinsmann are still hopeful he will play again in Brazil.
Klinsmann is likely to choose between Aron Johannsson — Altidore's replacement against Ghana — and Chris Wondolowski to start Sunday.
"Jozy is a special player. You can't — it's like saying, 'Hey, go be Cristiano Ronaldo' — you can't necessarily replace certain aspects of it," Wondolowski said. "But I think both Aron and I bring different styles, different sets of skills that I think are useful, and I think that's what we're going do."
—By Janie McCauley — www.twitter.com/JanieMcCAP
EYES ON ICE
CAMPINAS, Brazil (AP) — The most scrutinized knee in the World Cup was on display again Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo practiced with his Portugal teammates. And that was all anyone could talk about at the team's base in Campinas, with scores of cameras zooming in on the reigning world player of the year's every move, twitch and gesture.
Team officials sighed when asked about the status of Ronaldo, who has been struggling with a leg injury since before the tournament. Even for a team used to having all the attention on its star player, the media madness appeared to be weighing on Portugal.
At the team's news conference, the majority of the questions were about Ronaldo, even though he wasn't the one answering them.
Teammate Helder Postiga said he was sick of it.
"After the training today there were 10 players applying ice on themselves. We used three bags of ice! That cannot be a reason to create so many rumors about Cristiano," he said. "Cristiano is training; he's fine. He is going to be important for us. He is going to help the team. We all have a common goal. Ice is just an exercise, something normal after training. You need to take it more naturally."
— By Aron Heller — www.twitter.com/aronhellerap
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Max Kruse isn't playing for Germany at the World Cup, so he found another international competition — the World Series of Poker.
The Borussia Moenchengladbach forward finished in third place and won $36,494 this week in one of the Las Vegas tournament's 65 events.
Kruse, 26, played in three World Cup qualifiers for Germany but has since fallen out of favor.
WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky says it was Kruse's first time playing the 2-7 Draw Lowball variant of poker, so he got a 30-minute tutorial from fellow German and poker star George Danzer before making his strong showing.
The seven-week series features an estimated 80,000 players. Organizers expect to give out $200 million in prize money during the events.
— By Michelle Rindels — www.twitter.com/RindelsAP
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