Soccer

Valcke says no danger of Sao Paulo being booted

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)

A day after he warned that Sao Paulo could be kicked out of next year's World Cup because of construction delay in building its stadium, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke guaranteed on Wednesday that Brazil's largest city would remain a host venue for football's biggest event.

`'The World Cup will be played in 12 host cities,'' Valcke said. `'One of them is called Sao Paulo. There will be a meeting and we will sort the situation. And with the support ... of the government I can tell you that this stadium will be delivered in December 2013.''

Sao Paulo's stadium construction - like many projects for the 2014 World Cup - is running behind schedule, and an official said earlier this month it would miss FIFA's deadline for all stadiums to be ready by December 2013.

But Valcke, speaking at Rio's newly renovated Maracana stadium, was confident that the deadline would be met. He said there was no choice.

`'The World Cup, we can't reduce any requirement,'' he said. `'On any (other) competition that would be fine, except at the World Cup. The World Cup is 99 percent of the FIFA system. The World Cup has to be perfect. The World Cup is the diamond of FIFA.''

Valcke said FIFA would meet shortly with local organizers and the construction company to ''finalize a solution.''

Questions about the delays in Sao Paulo, which is to host the opening game of the World Cup, overshadowed Valcke's visit to Maracana. He replied at least four times to questions about them, suggesting he needed to learn Portuguese to make his point clearer.

The Confederations Cup, the eight-team warm-up event for the World Cup, will open on June 15 with Japan facing Brazil in the national capital Brasilia. With just a month to go, that stadium has only just been finished and will host its first match on Saturday.

The second match of the Confederation Cup is June 16 with Mexico facing Italy in the Maracana. The final is June 30 at the same venue, which was originally built for the 1950 World Cup and has undergone several facelifts since then.

The Maracana will also get only one official test game before the Confederations Cup, a June 2 international friendly between Brazil and England.

`'We will make sure we use this game to test all that we can,'' said Valcke, who has been openly critical of delays plaguing the World Cup organization. `'We have one game, and we will use the game as a test event.

`'As when a car comes out of the factory,'' Valcke added. ''There is one guy testing everything. And that's exactly what will happen on June 2.''

The Confederations Cup will be Brazil's first chance to show off its new sporting venues, and represents a test for the World Cup and - further down the road - Rio's 2016 Olympics.

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Follow Stephen Wade at http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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