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Mar 3, 2014

Brazil scrambles to finish work

Brazil coach Felipe Scolari positive about the 2014 World Cup, with 100 days to go until the tournament starts in Brazil.

SAO PAULO -- Brazil is running out of time.

World Cup organisers will mark 100 days to go on Tuesday with work still to be done on stadiums and infrastructure in the 12 host cities.

As national teams enter their final phase of preparations -- Wednesday in the only date this year before mid-May that all players are available to national teams for friendlies -- the Brazilian government is trying to ensure the country will be prepared for the 32-nation tournament, which opens on June 12. Brazil had nearly seven years to prepare after winning the bid in 2007.

"Listen, 100 days, it's a long way to go and it's a short way to go if there are still problems," FIFA President Sepp Blatter told FIFA.com. "But now all problems are under control and it will be, in 100 days, an exceptionally good start for an exceptional competition."

But there are four stadiums still under construction, and work outside many venues is far from over. Airports likely won't have all the work completed, and many urban projects initially expected to be ready for the World Cup won't be finished until after the event.

Doubts also remain about whether host cities will meet FIFA's requirements for fan areas with outdoor viewing screens.

Only six of the dozen stadiums were completed by last year's deadline. Two may be ready less than a month before the World Cup begins, including the Sao Paulo site of the opener between Brazil and Croatia.

FIFA expected Itaquerao to be ready in mid-April, but FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said last week the venue will not be ready before May 15.

The other venue with a tight schedule is in the southern city of Curitiba, which until a few weeks ago was in danger of being dropped. Local organisers said they believe the stadium will be ready by the end of April, but FIFA expects it to be finalised in mid-May.

There also is concern with the wetlands city of Cuiaba, where the stadium is not ready and work outside the venue seems far from complete.

"We have to work in conditions where the cement is not even dry (and) we already put things in place," Valcke said. "There is no criticism, there is just a challenge. For sure the stadiums are beautiful. It will work, and you will have what you expected."

Equipping a stadium to World Cup working standards requires 90 days, so FIFA and local organisers will have to start installing temporary structures needed for media and sponsors while construction work continues outside the venues.

Another FIFA concern is with the fan fests. FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said this month that football's governing body could sue the venues that breach their contract.

The northeastern city of Recife announced recently that it will not spend public money on the event and is seeking private partners.

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