Brazil right at home in sunny Sochi
SOCHI, Russia (AP):
It didn't take long before Neymar and his Brazil teammates started heading to the beach after the team arrived at its World Cup base in Sochi.
The five-time world champions are feeling quite at home at the Black Sea resort city, enjoying warm temperatures and a private beach.
Players were so comfortable, in fact, that the team's first practice session ended yesterday with Neymar and others throwing eggs and flour at playmaker Philippe Coutinho and defender Fagner, who were celebrating their birthdays. Just two (Neymar and Coutinho) of the world's three priciest players having a laugh ahead of a tournament where they'll be carrying heavy expectations.
Brazil have near-ideal conditions for their World Cup preparations in Sochi, with possibly the closest setting to what the team had back home before travelling to Russia.
"It was a positive first impression, the beauty of the city, its beaches," goalkeeper Alisson said. "We are having lunch and breakfast with a view of the sea. That's a plus for us."
The private beach at the team's luxury hotel was a hit with the players from the start. Neymar was one of the first to take a shirtless walk by the sand on the team's day off on Monday. He and other players posted photos taking time off by the beach.
Brazil practised for the first time in Sochi yesterday and allowed local fans to attend the training session. Nearly 4,000 people were handed tickets to watch the team's first activity on Russian soil.
Fans loudly chanted Neymar's name during the session, and the squad was at ease throughout.
Sochi, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics, was always Brazil's first choice for their base. The country's football federation went out of its way to secure the coveted location even before it knew where the team would be playing its matches.
Brazil will not play any matches in Sochi and will travel more than 4,300 miles for group-stage games in Rostov-on-Don, St Petersburg and Moscow.