Delayed World Cup stadium opens for test event in Brazil
Arena da Baixada continues under construction in Curitiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP / Denis Ferreira Netto)
Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 8:57PM EDT
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- World Cup organizers in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba held the first test event at the Arena da Baixada stadium on Saturday, with Atletico Paranaense and J.Malucelli playing out a goalless draw in front of about 10,000 fans.
The friendly was not considered an official FIFA test event and construction work is expected to continue at full pace to try to finish the stadium in time for the World Cup in less than three months. The local World Cup organizing committee said the first full test at the venue is expected to take place on May 14, a month before the tournament begins.
"It's important that these partial tests happen and that work continues at an intense rhythm," the local organizing committee said in a statement. "This match is an important step for other tests that will take place in the future until all sectors and a full capacity can be tested."
Only 10,000 people could attend the match because of security reasons. The stadium's capacity will be about 41,000 during the World Cup, when the venue will host four group-stage matches: Spain-Australia on June 23, Iran-Nigeria on June 16, Honduras-Ecuador on June 20 and Algeria-Russia on June 26.
Curitiba, widely considered one of Brazil's most advanced cities, was in danger of being excluded from the tournament earlier this year because of the delays at the Arena da Baixada. FIFA gave an ultimatum to local organizers, who had to scramble to expedite work at the last minute.
It was the first match at the stadium since it was closed for renovation in December 2011. It was supposed to be ready in 2013, but Atletico Paranaense and local officials faced difficulties financing the renovation work. Plans for a retractable roof had to be cancelled because it would not be ready in time for the World Cup.
All problems may not be solved yet. On Friday, the Parana state government watchdog group recommended a halt on public financing for the rest of the renovation work until organizers can explain alleged irregularities on the stadium's budget.
Atletico Paranaense used its regular starters even though the team also had to play in the semifinals of the Parana state championship later on Saturday. The club is focused on the Copa Libertadores so it is using its under-23 squad in the regional tournament.
Former Brazil star striker Adriano, now with Atletico, was among the players stepping for the first time at the pitch of the Arena da Baixada.