FIFA confirms Confed Cup will have 6 host cities


SAO PAULO (AP) -Brazil received permission to host the Confederations Cup with six venues despite ongoing worries about stadium construction that FIFA says have reached "a point of no return."

Football's governing body confirmed on Thursday that the northeastern cities of Salvador and Recife will host the World Cup warm-up tournament next year alongside Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza.

FIFA had previously said Recife and Salvador would be ratified only if they showed significant improvement in their preparations. They had until this month to convince FIFA that their stadiums would be ready in time the Confederations Cup from June 15-30.

It features 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 came as a relief to local organizers.

However, FIFA noted reasons for concern.

It's the first time the organization has accepted 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 this 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.

"Today is a point of no return, there is no way back. There is no plan B. But if we weren't convinced that the stadiums would be ready for tests events on April 15, these stadiums would not be announced today. We are 100 percent convinced that together we can deliver."

FIFA usually requires venues ready six months beforehand so at least two test events can be completed. It will be the first time the Confederations Cup will be played in South America and in six venues in the same country.

The venues had to be set now because tickets will go on sale on Nov. 21. About 830,000 tickets will be available for the 16 matches.

"The timelines from FIFA's point of view in some stadiums that are delayed can't be respected (as usual)," FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said. "We have to work with an extreme tight timeline. But given the local commitment we are confident that even with this tight schedule we can make it."

Tickets will range from $60 to $220, but Brazilian students, locals over the age of 60 and participants of a local social program will get a 50 percent discount in the cheapest category. The Brazilian elderly can get half-priced tickets in all categories. One percent of the total tickets will be made available for disabled fans.

The opener in Brasilia, the only match in the capital, will cost $140, and the final at Maracana Stadium in Rio will be sold at $220

The tournament draw will be on Dec. 1 in Sao Paulo.

Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said Thursday's announcement showed FIFA's confidence in the work being done by local authorities.

"All six Confederations Cup stadiums will be ready and the government will continue its effort to make sure Brazil overcomes the challenge to deliver a successful World Cup," Rebelo 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 70 percent finished by the end of October after local organizers significantly expedited the pace of construction.

Critics have complained that the need to accelerate construction at venues has led to a significant increase in costs and use of public funding.

Seven teams have already secured their participation for next year's tournament: Asian champion Japan, Gold Cup winner Mexico, South American champion Uruguay, World Cup holder Spain, European runner-up Italy, Oceania champion Tahiti and host Brazil, the tournament's defending champion. The African Cup of Nations winner will be known in February.


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