FIFA backs down as Brazilian reality bites
04 December 2013, 18:46
Costa do sauipe - After months of speculation over Brazil's ability to be ready for next year's World Cup, FIFA agreed Tuesday to extend a deadline for delivering three of the 12 host venues.
World football's governing body had insisted all along that it would not extend a December 31 deadline for all 12 stadiums to be delivered to organisers after a frenzied construction program.
On Tuesday, with the eyes of the football world on the northeastern resort of Costa do Sauipe ahead of Friday's draw for next June's finals, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said late delivery would be allowed for three venues lagging behind schedule.
FIFA still has no date for when the Sao Paulo arena will be ready following last week's accident in which two workers were killed when a crane collapsed and damaged part of the stands.
In addition, Blatter conceded the stadiums at Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Cuiaba would not meet a deadline he had previously insisted was set in stone.
Delivery of the stadiums at Curitiba and Cuiaba is now expected for February, just four months before the World Cup starts.
FIFA had previously insisted it would not allow Brazil leeway on delivery dates having tolerated similar delays ahead of last June's Confederations Cup dress rehearsal, when several venues missed the deadline for that tournament.
Blatter said he was confident the Brazilians would deliver, even belatedly, their first World Cup since 1950 as the giant nation strains to revamp its creaking infrastructure.
Sao Paulo "will be ready," Blatter told a press conference, saying he was basing his optimistic assessment on a new report.
"We have just received a report. There are some small delays in construction of stadia. But so small that with one exception (Sao Paulo) we can say everything is ready," said Blatter.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, said the stadium in Curitiba, which has been lagging behind schedule more than the other venues, would not be ready until the end of February.
"Curitiba is the one where we are facing the most problems and won't be delivered before the end of February 2014.
"We will be ready to get the stadium by the end of February 2014," Valcke said.
The Arena Amazonia in Manaus, in the heart of the tropical rain forest, also remains under construction, as does the one at Cuiaba.
Blatter said that FIFA believed it could trust the federal government, the state government and the respective city authorities to ready their sites in good time to host the event.
Brazilian sports ministry executive secretary Luis Fernandes indicated that the stadiums lagging behind would be delivered "in late January, or late February."
On Wednesday, Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo will be among officials fronting pre-draw events where the hosts will stress they can overcome doubts about transport links, hotel prices and urban crime.
Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and the Civil Aviation authority will also address complaints about unreasonably high prices.
Other concerns focused on accommodation capacity with some 600,000 foreign tourists expected to attend the month-long event starting June 12 in Sao Paulo.
There is also a shortage of domestic flight links between venues as the government mulls whether to allow foreign airlines to run domestic routes to ease the strain.
Some countries are also worried about the sheer size of the country, as some teams may face an onerous travel schedule with matches as far south as Porto Alegre, cold in the Brazilian winter, but also in tropical Manaus, and sultry Fortaleza some 3000 kilometres (1900 miles) away.
The Italian Football Federation earlier revealed it would like to see time-outs to avoid player dehydration.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said his side will propose two two-minute breaks to counter the heat and humidity with FIFA sticking to original kick-off times rather than potentially have later starts at hot venues.
The draw itself will feature eight groups of four teams and one of nine non-seeded European nations will face being moved into pot 2 alongside the five-strong African contingent and two South American sides.
England coach Roy Hodgson, whose unseeded team could be in line for a tough draw, says the geography issue is almost as important as which teams his men will face.
"There are venues in Brazil that will be harder to play in than others," said Hodgson before heading for Costa do Sauipe from Rio.
The eight seeds are hosts Brazil, reigning champions Spain, three-time winners Germany, Argentina, conquerors of two titles, fellow two-time winners Uruguay, Colombia, Belgium, and Switzerland, whom Hodgson led to the second round at USA '94.
With the draw venue an hour's drive north of the Bahia state capital Salvador, organizers are hoping the event will not be marred by the kind of popular unrest which hit last June's Confederations Cup.
Many Brazilians are angry at the estimated $11 billion cost of staging the World Cup -- about another 15 billion will follow for the 2016 Rio Olympics -- believing the money would have been better spent on improving public transport,education and health.