The clock is ticking on Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup, and the first important test of the soccer-crazy country’s readiness will come early next year.
As a tuneup to the World Cup, Brazil will be hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup in June 2013, as well as a test event next February to make sure that the stadiums that are being built or renovated in the six cities hosting the Confederations Cup are ready for prime time, said Luis Fernandes, Brazil’s deputy sports minister.
Among the teams that already have qualified are: Spain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay and Tahiti. Host Brazil, which has won the Confederations Cup three times previously, and the winner of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in February complete the tournament roster.
The six host cities for the June 15-30 Confederations Cup are Fortaleza, Salvador, Recife, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. The 56,000-capacity Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador and Recife’s Arena Pernambuco, with room for nearly 44,000 fans, are still under construction and arenas in the four other cities, including Rio’s famed Maracanã, are undergoing extensive renovations.
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“These are complex operations, but we’re more than confident — absolutely sure — they’ll be built in time,” said Fernandes in a telephone interview from his office in Brasilia.
He predicted some will be ready by this December.
For the FIFA World Cup, six more host cities — Cuiaba, Curitiba, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, and São Paulo — will be added, and there will be stadium construction and renovation challenges for all of them.
Although Fernandes might be confident about getting the stadiums built, he admits he’s frustrated by the Brazilian team’s second-place finish at the London Olympics.
This was the third time Brazil — a five-time World Cup champion — made it to an Olympic final without taking the gold medal.
“Soccer is the king sport in Brazil, and Brazil is a world power in soccer, but the team didn’t deliver at the decisive moment,” Fernandes said.
Despite the Olympic disappointment, the immediate priority is to avoid, at all costs, a repeat of the 1950 World Cup, also hosted by Brazil.
Maracanã, Rio’s iconic temple of soccer, was built especially for the 1950 World Cup, and so confident was Brazil of a win that even before the final match, a victory song Brazil os Vencedores (Brazil the Victors) had already been composed.
But with 11 minutes remaining, Uruguayan Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia brushed a shot past the Brazilian goalkeeper, silencing the crowd in the massive stadium. As Ghiggia would later say: “Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at Maracanã with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and I.’’
That loss still resonates among Brazilian soccer fans.
“It was a national trauma and we need to overcome it,” Fernandes said. “We really do hope to win the World Cup.”