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Valcke smiling, but WCup still a concern for FIFA

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 26, 2014 at 10:04 am •  Published: April 26, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke ended his final visit to Brazil before the World Cup with an upbeat message, saying that in a few weeks he would be celebrating the start of a successful tournament by drinking a "caipirinha" cocktail with Brazil's sports minister Aldo Rebelo.

But it was clear that FIFA's top World Cup official wasn't fully happy with what he saw in the country, where there is still a lot to be done in very little time for the June 12-July 13 tournament.

Valcke noted a "very tight schedule" to finish work at the much delayed Sao Paulo stadium that will host the Brazil-Croatia opener. He also complained that the other two unfinished venues didn't have many of their seats installed and sent a blunt warning to organizers struggling to prepare the fanfests that FIFA requires.

In Friday's press conference wrapping up a four-day trip, the FIFA official talked mostly about a successful World Cup. He joked freely with Rebelo, the man who two years ago wanted him removed from his post for bluntly saying Brazil needed a kick to get things going.

Valcke showed optimism, but gave clear signs that football's governing body still has plenty of reason to be concerned.

"I never dream, what I like is what I see," Valcke said the day he arrived in Sao Paulo. "I'll be happy on the 13th of July, after the final."

FIFA wanted all 12 stadiums ready by the end of last year, but three are yet to be completed with less than seven weeks before the opener. There's only one official event scheduled before the high-profile opener in Sao Paulo, and not even with the venue's full capacity.

"Yes, Sao Paulo will be ready, last minute, but it will be ready," Valcke said, in a mix of confidence and caution.

The other stadium still under construction is the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba, which was nearly excluded from the tournament earlier this year because of chronic delays. Valcke arrived to find out there is "still lots to do inside and outside" the stadium, including the installation of 27,000 seats.

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