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Relieved Curitiba admits it needed 'ears pulled'

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke listens to a question during an announcement on the status of Curitiba as a host city for the 2014 Worl
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke listens to a question during an announcement on the status of Curitiba as a host city for the 2014 Worl

By Mark Gleeson

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil (Reuters) - Contrite officials in Curitiba have conceded they underestimated the demands of hosting World Cup matches as the venue's status was confirmed on Tuesday after FIFA had considered ditching the Brazilian city over stadium construction delays.

FIFA backed down on a threat to remove Curitiba from the World Cup program, saying they were satisfied enough had been done to accelerate the construction to ensure completion by mid-May - one month before the start of this year's tournament.

"To (still) be here as a host city after the moment of crisis we had to face is great," said Reginaldo Cordeiro, the city official in charge of World Cup preparations.

"We have worked daily to accelerate the construction schedule to recover lost time."

Cordeiro and Mario Celso Cunha, the state co-ordinator for the World Cup, said FIFA's threats to take away the four scheduled games at the Arena da Baixada had led to an overhaul of the work schedule and a new financing model for the stadium, owned by the Atletico Paranaense club.

"It was good that (FIFA general secretary) Jerome Valcke came and tugged at our ears. It was good for us to wake up," Cordeiro said of the threat issued by soccer's world governing body at the start of the year.

However, the major confessional on events at Curitiba came from Atletico's president Mario Celso Petraglia, who delivered a 20-minute defense of the events around the stadium since the city was named one of the 12 World Cup host venues.

"Our journey had its rights and wrongs. Curitiba tried to find a different solution to the other 11 host cities, who had public money for their construction.

"We already had a basis for our stadium but all the requirements that FIFA have for hosting World Cup matches were not properly assessed by us," he told a news conference in Florianopolis, where FIFA are hosting their pre-World Cup workshop this week.

The stadium, with a capacity close to 42,000, was built in 1999 but planned major renovations for the World Cup.

"We were delayed by the bureaucratic process in Brazil, it took the whole of 2012 to approve funds. We started work last January but we tried to use small contractors. We recognize now that we did not have a realistic view of what we would have ahead of us."

Four matches are scheduled to take place at the stadium in Curitiba: Iran v Nigeria on June 16, Honduras v Ecuador on June 20, Australia v Spain on June 23 and Algeria v Russia on June 26. The venue will not be used after the opening group stage.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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