MOSCOW (AP) — A year after hosting the World Cup, Russia is boasting the biggest club soccer crowds since Soviet days and participation at the amateur level is on the rise. Still, there are signs...
Protesters rally in Russia in support of opposition activist
MOSCOW (AP) — Protesters in several Russian cities have taken to the streets in solidarity with an opposition activist.
Anastasia Shevchenko from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don last month became the first person to be charged under a new Russian law that carries a prison term for "participation in the activities of an undesirable organization."
MOSCOW (AP) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators have rallied throughout Russia to protest plans to substantially hike the age at which Russian men and women can receive their state retirement pensions.
KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Changing coaches on the eve of the World Cup can be fraught with danger. Just look at Spain.
The Spaniards and last-minute replacement coach Fernando Hierro were surprisingly eliminated by Russia in a penalty shootout after a timid and uninspired performance.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Japan came so close to reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time but it was not to be; and coach Akira Nishino did not mince his words talking about how it feels to fail yet again. "I am devastated," he said.
MOSCOW (AP) — A crazy header turned Belgium's night around.
Trailing 2-0 against Japan in the 69th minute, Belgium looked just like another heavily favored team heading out of this remarkable World Cup.
But defender Jan Vertonghen produced a goal that looked like almost nothing seen before on soccer's biggest stage. It sparked Belgium's 3-2 comeback win in Rostov-on-Don on Monday.
For the second World Cup in succession, Belgium has swept through the group stage with three wins and stylish football.
KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) — England barely seemed troubled by losing. Belgium appeared to be a reluctant winner.
Such was the curious conclusion to the group stage at the World Cup on Thursday. Neither team needed to win and there was good reason for neither to even want to win.
MOSCOW (AP) — Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest soccer player in history, has had a miserable World Cup and must turn it around immediately to save Argentina from a humiliating early exit from the tournament.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Iceland defender Kari Arnason isn't afraid to see red if it means stopping one of the World Cup's most creative sides when it takes on Croatia on Tuesday.
Both teams have a history of sending offs when they meet, with three red cards handed out in their last four matches.
Arnason sees Croatia as one of teams that could win the tournament, but the central defender's teammates aren't giving them a free ride and are promising grueling physical challenges.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — The criticism of Mexico's national team heading into the World Cup was loud and scathing. The answer has been emphatic.
The Mexicans won their second straight match at the tournament, beating South Korea 2-1 Saturday to move ever closer to a spot in the round of 16.
"We didn't listen to the criticism," said Javier Hernandez, one of the scorers against South Korea. "It was just noise."
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Mexico's biggest worry at the World Cup may be its fans instead of its next opponent, struggling South Korea.
The Mexican football federation was fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000) and warned of further sanctions over a chant by supporters considered to be homophobic during the opening game against Germany. Fans in Mexico use the chant to insult opposing goalkeepers as they take a goal kick. Widely considered a slur, some argue there is no discriminatory intent.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's national team endured an engine malfunction on the flight to Rostov-on-Don. That's not exactly the best preparation for a World Cup match against Uruguay.
The Saudis landed in the southern Russian city late Monday after flames were seen coming out of one of the engines. Team officials refused to speak to reporters after the incident, but the country's soccer association confirmed the episode and said all its players and staff were fine.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — After a 5-0 World Cup defeat with a match against Uruguay still to come, optimism may be running low for some Saudi Arabia fans, but not for Ahmed Benawi.
The retired airline engineer is following the Green Falcons across Russia on his 1,800cc touring bike with three Saudi companions, known as the Travelers. They have contingency plans to stay on the road with the team through the quarterfinals.
MOSCOW (AP) — An engine burst into flames during the landing of a Russian plane carrying the Saudi Arabian soccer team to a World Cup host city, but nobody was hurt, officials said Tuesday.
Russia's federal agency for air traffic said in a statement that the Airbus airplane flying from St. Petersburg to the southern city of Rostov-on-Don landed safely Monday evening and no emergency procedures were required.
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Monday at the World Cup (all times local):
Saudi team officials say the players have landed safely after a reported engine failure on their flight to Rostov-on-Don for a World Cup game against Uruguay.
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — This is unfamiliar territory for five-time World Cup champion Brazil.
The last time it didn't win its first game in a World Cup, Pele had just retired from soccer. The "Selecao" had won every one of its opening matches since 1978, a year after "The King's" farewell.
Brazil drew Sweden 1-1 back then, the same score of its match against Switzerland in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday, when all the hype surrounding Neymar and his teammates turned into disappointment and concern.
SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Serbia's victorious national team didn't get to watch the match between group rivals Brazil and Switzerland because it had a late-night flight out of Samara.
Upon landing, the Serbians were still on top — the result of their first win to open a World Cup in 20 years.
Now, the goal is to remain grounded.
"We have to be planted firmly on the ground and proceed as a team," coach Mladen Krstajic said.
Brazil held to 1-1 draw by Switzerland at World Cup
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Brazil joined the list of big teams struggling to win their opening matches at the World Cup in Russia.
The five-time champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland on Sunday, a few hours after four-time champion Germany was beaten by Mexico 1-0.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — With Brazil in town, Rostov has turned yellow.
The five-time World Cup champions have their opening match in the Russian city, and the local residents have joined the foreign visitors in donning yellow in honor of the team's shirts.
Neymar still not 100 percent, Brazil coach Tite says
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Neymar is still the key to Brazil's attack, even if he hasn't fully recovered from a right foot injury.
The five-time champions play their opening World Cup match on Sunday against Switzerland, and Neymar is expected to take his position at the front.
"Neymar is not yet 100 percent," Brazil coach Tite said Saturday. "But physically, he is very privileged. His sprints, his speed are very impressive. He's not 100 percent yet ... but he's good enough to play well."
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Switzerland's coach and captain have told fans not to expect an entertaining game against Brazil. Their goal is simply to deny space to the Brazilians.
"I'm not here to have a lovely game, but to win," coach Vladimir Petkovic said Saturday. "Brazil has developed enormously (since 2014). Their style of game is much more European. I respect that. But I'm here to focus on my players and impose our style of game."
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — A senior official in Russia's southern Rostov region says Cossack patrols in this World Cup city will "display their military skills" and not replace the role of police.
Deputy regional governor Igor Guskov told reporters Saturday that members of the academy of the self-governing militia would take part in horseback patrols along the Don River, but weren't strictly given the responsibility of providing security.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Brazil has spent four years trying to atone for its last World Cup match, the calamitous 7-1 defeat as hosts by Germany. Popular coach Tite purged players, eased dependence on Neymar, and rebuilt a team that concedes few goals and blazed through qualification.
Those changes will be tested Sunday, when the Selecao start their campaign for a sixth World Cup title at the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don against Switzerland.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Russia plans to deploy thousands of Cossacks to guard the World Cup, but the traditional paramilitary groups face criticism for their strident nationalism and attacks on protesters.
MOSCOW (AP) — A well-known Russian singer says FIFA barred her from performing at the World Cup because of her support for Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Julia Chicherina published what she says is a letter from FIFA objecting to "military topics" in the video for her song "On The Front Line," which featured Chicherina singing with armed men in rebel uniforms.
MOSCOW (AP) — Cossack culture — including horses, whips and vodka — awaits World Cup fans in the southern city of Rostov.
Sweltering summer heat is likely to keep both players and fans of teams like Brazil and Iceland thirsty in a city where the pace of life is more relaxed than in Moscow.
Here's what you need to know:
The riverside Rostov Arena sits on the left bank of the Don river, an area known for its bars, cafes and artificial beaches.
Fire sweeps across Russian city, dozens of homes destroyed
MOSCOW (AP) — A massive blaze swept Monday through the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, leaving scores of people injured and burning dozens of houses, officials said.
The fire that erupted at a wooden house in the center of Rostov-on-Don, a city of 1.1 million, quickly engulfed neighboring buildings. Desperate residents rushed to contain it before fire teams arrived.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho says he's unhappy with the quality of the pitch for Thursday's match against FC Rostov in the Europa League last 16.
The playing surface in southern Russia hasn't been used for three months, but has bare patches because of the harsh winter.
Mourinho says "it's hard for me to believe that we're going to play tomorrow in that field, if you can call it a field."
FlyDubai profit drops sharply in year of deadly accident
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Discount airline FlyDubai says its profit tumbled by 69 percent last year despite a rise in sales fueled by its growing operations.
The Dubai-based airline said on Wednesday that it earned 31.6 million dirhams ($8.6 million) last year, compared with 100.7 million dirhams in 2015. Revenue increased just over 2 percent, to $5 billion.
Bayern stunned by tenacious Rostov in Champions League
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Bayern Munich had to settle for second best after losing to tenacious Russian club FC Rostov 3-2 in a Champions League match played in minus-5 degrees on Wednesday.
Bayern had already qualified but will now finish second in Group D thanks to Atletico Madrid's 2-0 win over Eindhoven. Rostov was already eliminated, but can reach the Europa League.
Wolf chosen as World Cup mascot
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has chosen a cocky wolf wearing sporty goggles as the mascot for the 2018 football World Cup.
The wolf was chosen in online voting over two other mascot candidates -- a cat and a tiger wearing a space suit.
The announcement was made early Saturday at the end of an hour-long broadcast on state Channel One television. More than 1 million Russians voted in the contest, according to the broadcast.
Carrasco fires Atletico to win over Rostov
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Top of La Liga and now with three wins from three in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid's season so far is going to plan after beating FC Rostov 1-0 on Wednesday.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco fired in the winner on a cold night in Russia on Wednesday, and at the halfway point in Group D Atletico is all but assured of qualifying for the knockout stages with an eight-point lead over third place.
Budget carrier FlyDubai narrows loss in first half of 2016
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Mideast budget airline FlyDubai says its losses narrowed in the first half of the year as it flew more passengers and spent less on fuel.
The Dubai government-backed airline said on Thursday it lost the equivalent of $24.5 million in the first half of 2016, compared with a loss of $40.1 million during the same period a year earlier. Sales climbed 5 percent to $627 million.