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Football: Brazil, FIFA play down concerns over World Cup

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has played down spats with 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil, despite warnings over sluggish preparations.

ZURICH: FIFA chief Sepp Blatter on Thursday played down spats with 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil, despite warnings over sluggish preparations, insisting that confidence was the watchword.

Following talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, which came after the two sides locked horns over the readiness of stadiums, Blatter said the outlook was fine for the looming tournament.

"For me, as with everything we organise, it's a matter of confidence, of mutual confidence," Blatter told reporters alongside Rousseff.

"And confidence reigns. We now still have several months to go and we still need to make a few small adjustments here and there. I'm used to World Cups. There won't be any problem. In the end, everything will be fine in Brazil," he said.

"Brazil is the nation of football," Blatter underlined. "So Brazil will organise a splendid World Cup."

FIFA originally set a firm December 31 deadline for all 12 of Brazil's venues to be completed but had to scrap that date with half of the stadiums still requiring work.

This week in Brazil, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke dropped a bombshell by warning that Curitiba risked being struck off the list of host cities due to slack preparations.

The World Cup kicks off on June 12 and ends on July 13.

One of the delayed stadiums is Curitiba which again threw the spotlight on the giant host nation's ability fully to prepare the match venues and revamp creaking infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Rousseff countered criticism from Blatter over Brazil's tardy preparations for the event by insisting the country would prove able to host the "Cup of Cups".

On Thursday, she reiterated that pledge and insisted that the situation would be fine in the end.

"The Brazilian government will do everything, and the stadiums will be ready.

"Stadiums are relatively simple construction projects. We will do everything to ensure that this will be the globe's most beautiful World Cup ever," she said.

"That includes the stadiums, the airports, the ports and all the infrastructure needed for our country to properly host everyone who'll be coming to us.

"I can tell you that you can come to Brazil, and that you'll be welcomed with open arms by the Brazilian people," she added.

Rousseff was in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of the globe's business and political elite in the Alpine resort of Davos.

Last minute rather than Plan B

FIFA appears to have been swayed by Rousseff's assurances that all is being done to complete preparations on time.

Valcke said it would be a major challenge to change the plan for four games in Curitiba, saying It would prefer to see the stadium completed at the last minutes rather than to resort to a Plan B.

"Curitiba will not be excluded from the World Cup, I am absolutely certain," said Jose Maria Martin, president of Brazil's Local Organizing Committee.

But Valcke stressed "issues" remained.

"What will happen in Curitiba -- we are asking for a number of things to happen around the stadium. It is a challenge," Valcke told reporters.

"There is no easy solution -- the best one for Brazil is to make sure we can organize these four games in Curitiba," said Valcke, who angered Brazil last year in suggesting the hosts needed a "kick up the backside" to speed up preparations.

"We will look at what's happening in the stadium every minute of the day. There are issues -- as long as it's not finished there will always be issues," said Valcke.

Deputy Brazilian sports minister Luis Fernandes said Brazil would do everything it could to ensure Curitiba is kept as a venue.

He vowed to overhaul management of the construction team there and to determine if more workers could not be drafted to add an extra daily shift to speed things up.

"We believe once these measures are implemented we can guarantee delivery of the stadium," said Fernandes.

Fernandes pointed out there had been serious doubts over the northern city of Recife's readiness for last June's Confederations Cup -- a World Cup dress rehearsal -- but ultimately had delivered.

"Concern was voiced -- and yet the stadium was delivered."

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