Porto Seguro, Brazil • Germany coach Joachim Loew believes defending World Cup champion Spain still has what it takes to win the title.
Loew told reporters at his first news conference since Germany’s arrival in Brazil that Spain is "not past its prime."
Loew pointed out Thursday that Spain had two clubs in the Champions League final and one in the Europa League final and that it has won its last three tournaments — two European championships and one World Cup.
No European team has even won the World Cup in South America and no team has repeated as champion in 52 years, since Brazil’s 1962 title.
Sao Paulo • American referee Mark Geiger will work his first World Cup game when Colombia plays Greece on Saturday.
FIFA also said Thursday that the high-profile Group D match between England and Italy in Manaus will be refereed by Bjorn Kuipers of the Netherlands.
Kuipers is arguably Europe’s top official and refereed the Brazil-Spain Confederations Cup final last June, and the Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid city derby at the Champions League final last month.
Geiger is a 39-year-old professional referee and former high school teacher from Beachwood, New Jersey.
The Colombia-Greece match in Belo Horizonte opens the Group C program.
Also in Group C on Saturday, Enrique Osses of Chile will referee Ivory Coast vs. Japan in Recife.
FIFA gave Felix Brych of Germany the Uruguay vs. Costa Rica duty. Brych handled the Europa League final last month, a penalty shootout win for Seville over Benfica.
Mangaratiba, Brazil • Italy plans to train as planned at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus despite concerns about the pitch at the jungle World Cup venue.
The Azzurri travel to Manaus on Friday, a day before facing England in Group D.
Italian delegation chief Demetrio Albertini says "we’re not planning to change our schedule. ... We knew there was some burnt grass due to the heat but the color of the grass doesn’t really matter."
Albertini adds that an advance Italy delegation was slated to check out the pitch but was held up by airport strikes in Rio de Janeiro.
Groundskeepers were attempting to remedy the visibly dry, white stripes across the grass.
Head groundsman Carlos Botella told The Associated Press on Wednesday, "Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape."Next Page >
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