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Brazil begins World Cup preparations amid protests
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SAO PAULO (AP) — The Brazil squad’s preparations for a World Cup on home soil got underway Monday amid chants of protests instead of support.

The players selected by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari reported to the national team as a few hundred demonstrators loudly protested against the money being spent by the local government on the World Cup.

The protesters surrounded the bus carrying the players from their hotel in Rio de Janeiro to the training camp in the mountain city of Teresopolis, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) away.

The demonstrators slowed the bus down as it tried to leave and then got close enough to attach dozens of stickers with slogans against the World Cup on the vehicle, including the windows. They also chanted and held anti-World Cup banners, including one that read: “There will be no World Cup, there will be a strike.”

“It was just a minor problem,” said Brazil assistant coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led Brazil to the 1994 world title. “I’m sure that everyone will be supporting the national team. Nobody is going to be against it.”

The demonstrators were comprised mostly of teachers and education officials demanding better schools and other improvements from the local government.

There were a few protesters when the team arrived in Teresopolis, too, but there were also supporters in place to welcome the players.

Last year’s Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament held in Brazil, was marked by violent protests against the government. More are expected next month during the World Cup, although FIFA and local organizers have pledged to try to prevent the tournament from being affected.

Heavy security is in place at Brazil’s training camp in Teresopolis, which was completely renovated for the event. A police helicopter hovered overhead as the bus carrying the players arrived.

Neymar and the other 22 players underwent medical exams on Monday and more are expected on Tuesday. The first practice session is scheduled for Wednesday. Left back Marcelo, who helped Real Madrid win the Champions League final on Saturday, was allowed to delay his arrival.

“We were all anxiously waiting for this,” Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar said.

Brazil will have 17 days to fine tune for the June 12 opener against Croatia at Sao Paulo.

“We have to take it slowly in these first 10 days and then intensify our preparations in the final seven so we can have our team ready for the World Cup,” said Scolari, who guided Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title.

The first few days in the training camp were crucial to give doctors an idea of the players’ physical condition after returning from their clubs, he said.

The squad will practice twice a day for a week before heading to the central city of Goiania, where it will face Panama in a friendly on June 3. The squad then returns to Teresopolis for a couple of days before traveling to Sao Paulo, where it will play Serbia on June 6 in its final warm-up match.

Among the players reporting to the training camp are 16 who were members of the Brazilian team that won last year’s Confederations Cup. Only six players in this year’s squad have previous experience in World Cups — Cesar, striker Fred, midfielder Ramires and defenders Thiago Silva, Daniel Alves and Maicon.

Scolari has already said he will be bringing several former world champions to talk to his players during the team’s preparations. The coach said the group will also work with a psychologist.

After playing Croatia, Brazil faces Mexico on June 17 in Fortaleza and Cameroon on June 23 in Brasilia.