Countdown to Brazil: Stadium problems still persist as Cup looms

By Mike Singer |

We predict Neymar will take home the Golden Boot. (USATSI)

More World Cup: Group Previews | World Cup Roundup | Latest news & notes

We're into single digits. Nine days left until the 2014 World Cup begins. That's it. With that, we offer you's full 2014 World Cup predictions, including group order, top-four finishers, and our Golden Boot winner.

Testing, testing: A second stadium test was held at Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo over the weekend, the location of next Thursday's opening match between Brazil and Croatia, and the results weren't promising.

Safety advisers kept part of the stands closed and only allowed 37,000 fans in – about half of the stadium's supposed capacity.

“The stadium is marvelous, but it's not even finished! And that's completely unacceptable,” one construction worked told The Los Angeles Times. In what was billed as a second dry run, some fans weren't able to get to their seats until midway through the first half. That's not going to play next Thursday.

Falcao out: Monday was FIFA's deadline to submit each nation's final 23-man roster, and the most glaring omission was Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, who seemed to voluntarily pass on a roster spot after not feeling fit enough due to his January ACL tear.

The injury shakes up Group C substantially, but it's more generally a loss for soccer fans worldwide.

U.S. embracing its inner Balboa:

FIFA exec fires back at British newspaper over Qatar allegations: Surely you've heard about the allegations against a former Qatari official accused of bribing other FIFA executives with millions in order to garner support for the 2022 bid. The Daily Telegraph asserted that FIFA VP Michael Platini met secretly with the alleged offending official just prior to the Qatar vote, and that's not sitting well with Platini.

On Tuesday, Platini wrote in a letter to the outlet's editor: "I find it astonishing that conversations with a fellow member of the FIFA executive committee could be transformed into a matter of state," he wrote. Platini said he "obviously" met with Mohamed Bin Hammam "on many occasions in 2010," and he asserts that the two discussed Platini's potential FIFA presidential candidacy. This story isn't going away, for about, oh, eight years or so.

No better segue than Colombia vs. Brazil ... playing sheep soccer:

Thinking of a last-minute trip to Brazil?

FIFA is going to release 180,000 extra tickets to World Cup matches, and some are very affordable. The Washington Post says that you can still get in to see USA-Portugal for less than $100.00. Might be worth it.

Beckham thinking about a return? No, not for the World Cup, silly, but he did hint that he might try a comeback with his MLS Miami team in a few years.

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