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World cup clock ticking, Brazil warming up

16 October 2013, 11:21

Rio De Janeiro - The old differences between World Cup hosts Brazil and the ruling football body FIFA about construction delays, beer licences and verbal jabs appear to be a thing of the past.

Qualifying will be completed next month, and the six not yet finished stadiums will more or less be ready on time by December - including the new Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, where the World Cup kicks off on June 12, 2014.

But things are getting a bit more expensive which could fuel the protest mood in Brazil. The mood on the streets is considered by many as the "great unknown" for the World Cup 2014.

At the dress rehearsal for the World Cup, the 2013 Confederations Cup, nobody had expected protests with so much force. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against corruption, shortcomings in health care services, transportation and education, and high World Cup costs.

In light of shells of tear gas, rubber bullets and street fighting in front of the arenas, football was close to becoming an afterthought.

The protests have dropped off since then, but FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was confronted with demonstrators during a recent visit in Cuiaba.

The some 50 protestors were yelling "World Cup for whom?" and "This World Cup is an assault".

"That is part of democracy," Valcke said diplomatically.

But after the Confederations Cup, Valcke said officials at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich are considering a strategy on how to handle protest scenarios during a World Cup.

The FIFA general secretary also said that the World Cup is well organised, and the distribution of duties certainly clear.

FIFA controls what goes on inside the stadium. What happens outside the stadium is a matter for the hosts - in other words the police and military in this case.

Meanwhile, the criticism about the delay in the construction of the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo appears over as works are effectively on schedule. Construction is about 90 per cent done though media reports say costs could run up to as much as 1 billion reals (445 million dollars). Original estimates were about 800 million reals.

It remains to be seen if Brazil will "shine on and off the pitch" as President Dilma Rousseff hopes but Selecao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and star player Neymar of Barcelona are doing their part.

The record world champions regained the respect of the world with the Confederations Cup title and have since beaten Australia 6-0, Portugal 3-1, South Korea 2-0 and Zambia 2-0 in friendlies. However, they suffered one slip-up in losing 1-0 to Switzerland.

But there is clearly huge interest in the Brazil World Cup, with more than six million ticket orders in the first stage of ticket sales, which will be decided mainly by lottery.

The next big event for Brazil 2014 comes on December 6 in Costa de Sauipe where the draw for the football spectacle will take place.

"Costa de Sauipe will be the centre of the football world," Valcke said.

All 32 of the teams will meet in Brazil two months later for a preparation conference. Until then, it should be clear where the World Cup teams will hold their training camps.



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