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Valcke: FIFA confident but 'a lot of work' left

Thursday - 8/22/2013, 3:55pm  ET

FIFA's secretary general Jerome Valcke, right, and former soccer player Ronaldo arrive to a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug 22, 2013. FIFA's secretary general has floated an idea for a possible change to the World Cup bidding process in response to a spate of challenges in organizing next year's tournament in Brazil, which he says has "clearly" proven more difficult than in prior host nations. Valcke told reporters at a briefing in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday he would like to see the highest-level political approvals required as part of the bid package for countries hoping to host future World Cups. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

TALES AZZONI
AP Sports Writer

SAO PAULO (AP) -- FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke expressed increasing confidence Thursday that Brazil's hosting of the 2014 World Cup will be a success.

He added there is still a lot of work left to get some of the stadiums completed by the December deadline established by FIFA.

Valcke made the comments in Rio de Janeiro at the end of an inspection tour at some of the 12 host cities in Brazil.

He said that FIFA is "more relaxed" regarding the progress of the country's preparations, but "definitely, there is still a lot of work to do" to make sure that the six remaining venues are delivered this year.

The secretary general said that with tickets already on sale, there is no room for changes and Brazil will have to get all 12 venues ready.

"The turning point was on the 19th of August when we started the ticket sales," he said. "We are selling tickets for the 12 stadiums, so it means that there will be games in the 12 stadiums. The time for talking about having 11, 12 or 10 stadiums is over. We will have 12 host cities and 12 stadiums."

Valcke, the FIFA official responsible for overseeing Brazil's preparations, said that having the Confederations Cup take place without major glitches earlier this year gave FIFA more confidence that the World Cup will be successfully organized.

"The result of the Confederations Cup is a great result. I'm not talking about Brazil winning the Confederation Cup. I'm talking about the organization itself. The support from the fans, the fact that the stadiums were packed, that we were able to resolve any problems we have faced," Valcke said. "It gives you the comfort to say that 'yes, there will be a successful World Cup.'"

Valcke said Wednesday it has proven more difficult to plan the event in Brazil than in other past host nations.

The success during the Confederations Cup helped ease some of the tension.

"There is no doubt about the fact that the success will be there," he said.

Stadium construction remains a cause for concern, however.

"Now we are not ready. We cannot play tomorrow morning the World Cup because we are still having to work on six stadiums and we have to improve in the six host city stadiums," Valcke said.

Valcke said he wants to avoid the problems faced during the Confederations Cup, when only two of the six stadiums were ready by the initial deadline set by FIFA.

"Definitely there is still a lot of work to do," he said. "There is a limit of time. There are a few months to go, a few weeks to go to the end of December. (We have to) make sure that we run these test events to avoid the few issues we (faced) at the Confederations Cup with the late delivery of a very few stadiums."

FIFA said tickets sales already are a success.

"A new record," FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said. "Within seven hours we had more than 1 million requests. We have currently 2.3 million requests after 24 hours of having opened the ticketing site."

Valcke and Brazilian organizers dismissed the possibility that a new wave of protests against the local government like what plagued the Confederations Cup could disrupt football's showcase next year.

"The protests were at their peak during the Confederations Cup and we still managed to organize the event without major problems," Brazil sports minister Aldo Rebelo said. "There is a huge support for the World Cup here and the ticket sales show that; that's the greatest reason for everyone to feel secure. There is nothing to fear when it comes to the World Cup."

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