BC-World Cup Digest ,677

Editors:

Here are the AP's latest coverage plans for the World Cup. All times EDT.

Find all of AP's World Cup coverage at www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup .

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DEVELOPING

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WCUP-THE LATEST — Breaking news on World Cup developments around Russia and throughout the world.

WCUP-RUSSIA-SAUDI ARABIA — Coverage of a news conference with both teams playing in Thursday's World Cup opener. Photos. 2 p.m. EDT

WCUP-ARGENTINA — Argentina holds training and its news conference two days before its first World Cup match. Photos. 2 p.m. EDT.

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TOP STORIES

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WCUP-SPAIN-LOPETEGUI FIRED —With only two days to go before Spain's opening match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as national team coach because he accepted a job to lead Real Madrid next season. The move sends a shock to a team that is among the favorites in Russia, two days before Spain plays fellow powerhouse Portugal — and Real Madrid's all-world forward Cristiano Ronaldo — in both teams' opener. By Tales Azzoni. SENT: 800 words, photos.

WCUP-JOHN LEICESTER-SPAIN SACKING — As completely and utterly crazy as it looks for Spain to cut off its own head on the eve of the World Cup, there is a logical explanation for the out-of-the-blue, "Are you frigging kidding me?" decision to sack Julen Lopetegui as coach just two days before he was to lead the Spanish team out against Portugal: A leader can't lead effectively if he is beholden to two masters at once. By John Leicester. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos by 12 p.m.

WCUP-2026 HOST — North America will host the 2026 World Cup after FIFA voters overwhelmingly opted Wednesday for the financial and logistical certainty of a United States-led bid over a risky Moroccan proposal for the first 48-team tournament. By Rob Harris and Graham Dunbar. SENT: 830 words, photos. With WCUP-2026 HOST-ANALYSIS, WCUP-2026 HOST-REACTION.

WCUP-RUSSIA-MOOD — Sanctions, doping suspicions, an embarrassingly weak soccer team — Russians don't seem to have much to rejoice about as they ready to host the World Cup. So they're turning to parody instead. Even the famously tough president of Chechnya couldn't save the Russian national team, goes one song buzzing around social networks. Beneath the public propaganda and promotional efforts, self-deprecating mockery is defusing the tensions around Russia's World Cup, which is kicking off Thursday with much at stake for President Vladimir Putin and his proud nation. By Angela Charlton. UPCOMING: 500 words, photos by 10 a.m.

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ALSO OF NOTE

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WCUP-MOMENTS-BRAZIL'S HUMILIATION — Hoping to exorcise the ghosts of the Maracanazo at its home World Cup, Brazil instead was subjected to a humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 semifinals. SENT: 375 words, photos.

WCUP-MOROCCO-IRAN — With Morocco and Iran both priding themselves on rock-solid defending and relentless pressing in midfield, their Group B opener at the World Cup on Friday might look destined to be a stifling match. SENT: 800 words, photos.

WCUP-EGYPT-URUGUAY — Mohamed Salah is expected to recover from a shoulder injury in time to play in the World Cup, but will he be fit enough to play Egypt's opening match against Uruguay? SENT: 670 words, photos.

SOC-MORGAN'S MOVIE — She's already an internationally recognized soccer player with a World Cup title and an Olympic gold medal. She's also the author of a series of kids' books. Now you can add actor to Alex Morgan's resume. By Anne M. Peterson. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 3 p.m.

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VIDEO

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RUSSIA WCUP HISTORY — Host city Volgograd was the scene of a WWII battle which saw huge numbers of Russian losses and even today, residents come across battle debris and even remains of those who fought street to street. The World Cup stadium has been erected on top of a site where thousands lost their lives in this city, formerly known as Stalingrad.

RUSSIA WCUP PREDICTIONS — Yekaterinburg's lemur, Achilles the cat and other animals make their choices. Covered live, edit sent.

RUSSIA WCUP PREPS — Preparations in Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Yekaterinburg ahead of the opening of the Russia World Cup on Thursday.