By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The FIFA World Cup is just four short months away and global media attention is fixed on the country as preparation for football’s biggest prize goes down to the wire. With the competition’s kick-off approaching, The Rio Times seized the opportunity to speak to the Ministry for Sport about the World Cup, the nation’s preparations and the Seleção’s chances of lifting the trophy on home soil.
Tourists are expected to flock to Brazil for the FIFA tournament to support their respective countries in their millions. “According to information from the Ministry for Tourism, we are expecting 3.6 million tourists during the World Cup, 600,000 of which will be from abroad,” says the Brazilian Ministry for Sport.
Those coming can expect to see a second Carnival. “The World Cup is a party for the host county and for the tourists. The atmosphere is one of joy and passion. We will have a friendly ambiance in twelve modern and comfortable stadiums.”
The Ministry for Sport believes the two can be combined during the World Cup. “Brazil is famous for Carnival and even more well known for its achievements in world football.”
“The greatest players in history are Brazilian. We [Brazil] are the only country to have won five World Cups and the only country to have participated in every edition of the World Cup. Certainly, we will have a huge party this year, just like Carnival.”
With the pressure on in an expected Carnival like atmosphere, the minister believes the Seleção Brasileira will be able to lift their sixth world title and their first on home soil. “If we repeat our performances in the Confederations Cup, we have a big chance of winning a sixth World Cup.”
“Our team is fast, young and counts on several world-class players like Neymar, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva and Oscar. In addition, our Seleção is managed by Luiz Felipe Scolari, an experienced coach who has already won a World Cup,” says the Minister for Sport.
Yet anyone coming to Brazil for the World Cup will be aware of the stories that have dominated headlines across the globe. While many account for the protests held during the Confederations Cup and afterwards over political corruption and price hikes on public transport, a good deal more deal with the inadequacy of stadium building across Brazil.
Just last month, Curitiba was given a deadline of February 18th to prove it could prepare the Arena da Baixada on schedule or face expulsion from the tournament. Earlier today (Tuesday) FIFA confirmed Curitiba would indeed be part of the tournament, but it has been touch and go for months on five stadiums still to be delivered.
The Minister for Sport explains, “The federal government believes in the efforts of those responsible for building the World Cup stadiums and trusts all will be delivered on time. Seven stadiums have already been completed and the others are in the final stages of building works.”
The stadium being built in São Paulo – the Arena Itaquerão – has also faced a barrage of negativity after two workers were killed at the site in December. Camila Melo, of the São Paulo Organizing Committee, explained the stadium had a FIFA deadline of December 31st but is set to be completed four months late. “April is the latest deadline established between Corinthians and FIFA,” Melo confirmed.
In local games the seven stadiums that have been used are rarely filled. Rio’s Maracanã Stadium can hold just under 80,000 fans, but for Sunday’s huge clássico between Flamengo and Vasco only 13,245 fans were inside the arena.