FIFA: Confederations Cup to have six host cities in Brazil
A worker walks on the bleachers as construction continues at Brasilia's National Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. (AP / Eraldo Peres)
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, November 8, 2012 8:52AM EST
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazil was granted permission by FIFA on Thursday to host the Confederations Cup with six venues as originally planned.
Football's governing body said the northeastern cities of Salvador and Recife will be part of the World Cup warm-up tournament next year. Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Salvador and Fortaleza will also host matches.
FIFA had previously announced the six cities as hosts, but said Recife and Salvador would only be ratified if they showed significant improvement in their preparations. They had until this month to convince FIFA that their stadiums would be ready in time for next year's competition.
The Confederations Cup will be played June 15-30 among the six continental champions, the World Cup winner and the host team.
Getting the venues ready is seen as the first big test of Brazil's capacity to prepare for the 2014 World Cup, and FIFA's decision confirming all six cities in the tournament came as relief to local organizers.
But despite confirming the cities, FIFA said there is still reason for concern. It will be the first time the organization will accept having the stadiums ready less than six months before a tournament of such magnitude. Only the stadiums in Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza will be ready by the end of the year, which was the initial plan for all venues.
"It's a huge challenge, the timeframe is very tight," FIFA communications director Walter De Gregorio said. "In a way we are very happy we found a solution, but we have to make it clear that we are still concerned because we were not able to have stadiums ready as it was planned from the beginning."
It will be the first time the Confederations Cup will be played in South America and in six venues in the same country.
"Today is a point of no return, there is no way back," Gregorio said.
The biggest concern was with Recife, which was forced to bring forward its final construction deadline by 10 months after FIFA said it wanted the city in the Confederations Cup. The 46,000-seat Arena Pernambuco, which will host five World Cup matches, was 52 per cent completed in July but improved to 70 by the end of October after local organizers significantly expedited the pace of construction.
FIFA usually wants the new venues ready six months before the competition begins so at least two test events can be completed.
With FIFA's decision on Thursday, Recife avoided repeating the disappointment of other venues that didn't get to participate in previous Confederations Cups. It happened to Kaiserslautern in Germany in 2005 and Port Elizabeth in South Africa in 2009.
Seven teams have already secured their participation for this year's tournament: Asian champion Japan, CONCACAF Gold Cup winner Mexico, South American champion Uruguay, World Cup holder Spain, European runner-up Italy, Oceania champion Tahiti and host Brazil. The African Cup of Nations winner will be known in February.