Football: Fifa's Valcke says confident Brazil will deliver

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (right) talks with an engineer during a visit to the site of the Arena Corinthians stadium, which is being prepared to host 2014 World Cup matches, in Sao Paulo Jan 20, 2014. Valcke said on Monday he was conf
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (right) talks with an engineer during a visit to the site of the Arena Corinthians stadium, which is being prepared to host 2014 World Cup matches, in Sao Paulo Jan 20, 2014. Valcke said on Monday he was confident that Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians would be completed by the Apr 15 deadline in time for the World Cup's opener. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said on Monday he was confident that Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians would be completed by the Apr 15 deadline in time for the World Cup's opener.

"We are very confident that things are on track," Mr Valcke told a press conference after touring the stadium, which is due to host the Jun 12 opening match.

Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo meanwhile told reporters that the arena, where a fatal accident killed two construction workers in late November, was "97 per cent ready for delivery".

Noting that Arena Corinthians was initially to have been delivered on Monday, Mr Valcke said "a lot of work is still to be done where the accident took place". On Nov 27, two construction workers died at the stadium after a crane fell onto part of the stadium at it lifted a final piece of roofing into position.

The accident forced Fifa to scrap an initial Dec 31 deadline for all 12 venues to be ready and Sao Paulo is only set to hold pre-event tests from mid-April.

On his first trip to Brazil this year, the Fifa secretary-general said it was too early to give an overall assessment of preparations for the mega-event.

"We will come every month for one week," he added.

But he said that he believed Brazil will rise to the challenge of hosting its first World Cup since 1950.

"The pressure is higher here because it is the first game," he added. "The world will watch... We have the obligation, Brazil and us, to make things happen perfectly, not only for the first game but for the 64 (games)."

As well as fatal accidents at three stadiums - Brasilia and Manaus being the others - there has been widespread concern at Brazil's ability to overcome logistical issues, including a poor transport network and sky-high hotel prices.

Fifa's president Sepp Blatter earlier this month criticised the Brazilians for starting preparations too late after being selected as hosts back in 2007.

That criticism from the head of world football's governing body stung Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff into a spirited riposte.

Mr Valcke himself noted Rousseff's point that fan enthusiasm for the event knows no bounds.

"We never received so many requests" for World Cup tickets.

"I think we have some 10 million requests for tickets," said Mr Valcke, who was later to go on to Cuiaba, Curitiba and Natal, three other World Cup venues where preparations have been lagging, to monitor progress there.

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