Soccer-FIFA confirms six venues for Confederations Cup

Wed May 30, 2012 1:44pm EDT

* Recife, Salvador included among host cities

* Venues given until November to prove they will be ready

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO, May 30 (Reuters) - FIFA gave the Brazilian cities of Recife and Salvador a vote of confidence on Wednesday, confirming them among the six chosen to host matches in next year's Confederations Cup.

There was doubt over whether the north-eastern cities would have their new stadiums ready for the tournament, which takes place in June 2013 and is considered a dry run for the World Cup the following year.

But FIFA said the two cities, along with the capital Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro, should be ready to host matches and gave them until mid-November to prove they are on track.

"We are quite confident that this Confederations Cup will be played in the six cities," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said at an announcement ceremony in Rio, which will host the final match of both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

The ceremony marked Valcke's first public appearance in Brazil since he angered Brazilian officials in March by criticising the pace of preparations for the World Cup. His remarks chilled relations between FIFA and Brazil, and led the Brazilian government to briefly declare him persona non grata.

REGIONAL CHAMPIONS

The Confederations Cup features FIFA's six regional champions along with the host nation and the World Cup holders.

Spain, Japan, Mexico and Uruguay have all qualified for next year's tournament. The winners of next month's European Championship will join them, as will hosts Brazil and the winners of the Asian and African cups.

Brazil will kick off the tournament in Brasilia's 70,000-seat ManĂ© Garrincha Stadium on June 15 and the final will be played at Rio's famous MaracanĂ£ stadium on June 30.

Brazil was awarded the right to host the 2014 World Cup in 2007 but took almost two years to choose the 12 host cities.

Construction of stadiums and infrastructure has been slow, and the government last week said that 40 of the 101 major projects scheduled for the tournament have still to get off the drawing board. Thirteen of the 31 airport renovations have not yet started.

Most of the stadiums should be ready for the World Cup but some, such as the Sao Paulo arena that will host the opening match in June 2014, will not be ready for the Confederations Cup.

There were similar concerns about the stadiums in Salvador and Recife.

Although officials say Salvador is 60 percent complete and Recife is 40 percent done, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper earlier this month quoted internal FIFA documents saying there was a "high risk" that Recife will not be ready in time.

Wednesday's announcement was meant to allay those fears.

"We are committed to delivering the greatest FIFA Confederations Cup ever," said former Brazil striker Ronaldo, who is one of the local organisers.

"It is a big challenge for the six host cities, who have worked so hard to come to this point. But their effort will surely pay off with memorable matches, great celebrations and the huge international awareness that the tournament will raise for these cities." (Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Maria Pia Palermo in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Todd Benson and Ed Osmond)