RIO DE JANEIRO: FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke tried to insist that the Confederations Cup in Brazil next year is “more than just a curtain-raiser” for the World Cup but, with so many concerns over preparation delays, that was an optimistic attempt to change the focus.

With little more than a year to the kick-off of the Festival of Champions in Brasilia on June 15, 2013, the match schedule covering the six confirmed Cup venues has been published. At the moment it comprises six venues but this could be reduced to five or even four.

Under the present proposal, all host cities – apart from Brasilia which will host only the Opening Match – will stage three of the 16 games. The  schedule can be reviewed at

Already ‘qualified’ are hosts Brazil, world champions Spain, Asian champions Japan, CONCACAF champions Mexico and South American champions Uruguay. They will be joined by the champions of Africa, Europe and Oceania.

Valcke, paying his first visit to Brazil since the ‘kick up the backside’ row in March, said:This event is more than just a curtain-raiser for what is to come in 2014. Yes, it is an important operational test for the country and host cities but at the same time it showcases football at the highest level.

“This has also been reflected by recent research, which shows that with 64 compared to 66 per cent, nearly as many Brazilians want to be in the stadium during the event in 2013 as for the FIFA World Cup one year later. And that is not to mention the incredible awareness for the event of 87pc among Brazilians, which is higher than for the Olympics and the Copa América.”

Old World Cup-winning hero Ronaldo, a member of the embattled Local Organising Committee, said: “We are committed to delivering the greatest Confederations Cup ever. 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.

“This line-up of top-level teams will display their talent in six new or fully refurbished stadiums. After the competition, we will have half of the venues ready and tested for the FIFA World Cup. One year ahead. This is very important for our team at the LOC.”

Sports Minister Aldo Rebeleo, maintaining his always-optimistic front,  added: “The six host cities that will host the FIFA Confederations Cup will not only be the gateways to a great spectacle of football, but will also show Brazil’s greatness as well as the country’s and the people’s capacity to deliver. I am very confident that we will have an event that will be up to standard, as Brazilians and the whole world expect.”

** Wise Up, an English-language school for adults working in 70 cities in Brazil and worldwide, has become the fourth National Supporter of the World Cup while Globo Marcas has been appointed as FIFA’s master licensee for both events.

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