Moscow (AFP) – AFP Sport takes a look at some of the stories you may have missed as the World Cup starts in Russia.
Cast a spell on you
With the help of two priestesses and a rain stick shaped like an ancient Mesoamerican god, Mexico’s “Grand Warlock” has cast a spell to help the national team.
In a public ceremony, Antonio Vazquez — better known as the psychic “El Brujo Mayor” — invoked the plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl to help Mexico end their 32-year wait to reach the quarter-finals.
The Mexicans have lost in the last 16 in six successive World Cups.
“Quetzalcoatl, give me all your force and power to break through heaven’s doors,” he said, his long white beard standing out against his green Mexico jersey.
Up in the gods
People seated in the Yekaterinburg Arena’s now-infamous temporary stands behind each goal will certainly need to be fit.
Fans will have to scale 250 metal steps to reach the dizzying top rows and once they get there they will also need a head for heights.
They would be advised to pack a raincoat — the stands are open to the elements — and a pair of binoculars will also come in handy.
The two stands, which are each the equivalent height of a 14-storey building, were constructed specially for the World Cup to increase the stadium’s capacity to 35,000.
Australia’s Jackson Irvine laughed off suggestions that teammate Trent Sainsbury will “shave his (Irvine’s) hair off” if Irvine scores a goal. The midfielder stands out from the rest of the Socceroos squad because of his long locks.
“It came up last night actually,” he said. “Trent Sainsbury tried to convince me if I score, then he gets to shave my hair off after the game so… I haven’t quite agreed to that bet yet but it has become part of my trademark. I’ve become quite emotionally attached to it so I can’t see it going anywhere soon.”
A red-hot start?
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations has warned that “frosts are expected” on Thursday in the Leningrad region.
But it added that there would also be “extreme fire danger” in the western part of the region for the first three days of the tournament.
Keep calm, pass it to Christian
Danish fans have enjoyed poking fun at their team in the build-up to the tournament, even making a joke shirt that shows their “tactics” on the back.
The cunning gameplan involves always attempting to pass to Tottenham star Christian Eriksen, who scored a stunning hat-trick in the 4-1 play-off victory against Ireland.
But the Danes will be without Nicklas Bendtner through injury. A petition to postpone the World Cup until the much-maligned former Arsenal striker is fit has garnered more than 11,000 signatures.
Anger in Colombia
Fans in Colombia have been left incensed after Spanish magazine Panenka’s parody of their side ‘the XI of the Narcos’ depicted a team led by infamous drug traffickers such as Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha.
The magazine was forced to apologise after an outcry on social media, saying: “We have always wanted to treat the country with love and respect.”
“Maybe if Italy had entered the @federugby (Italian rugby) team, they’d have something to cheer about this #FIFAWorldCup” — World Rugby can’t resist a cross-code dig at the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the finals in Russia as it tweets footage of Italy’s rugby players showing impressive round-ball skills.