BRASILIA: Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has denied reports that the part-built Itaquero stadium in Sao Paulo will not be ready to host the Opening Match of the World Cup in Brazil next year writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Work on the venue has been halted in the latest squabble over funding for the next stage of work on the new home of world club champions Corinthians.

Originally it had been envisaged that the Opening Match would be played in the Morumbi stadium in Sao Paulo. However former President Lula was reluctant to release federal funds in a stand-off with local Paulista officials.

Later it was agreed to build and use a new home for Corinthians but the federal government had to come up with more money because of the need for a short-term, temporary expansion of capacity for the World Cup. FIFA wants a minimum capacity of 60,000 but Corinthians wanted only a 45,000 maximum.

The next federal loan has been cleared by the state development bank but the Banco do Brasil, which provides the cash, has refused to release it. The bank claims that Odebrecht, the developer, has failed to provide acceptable guarantees.

Rebelo said: “Odebrecht has a long list of projects. The same issue over suitable guarantees arose in Porto Alegre and we resolved that. I am confident that the outcome will be the same. The stadium is an excellent project for that zone of the city and I am sure local and state support will be forthcoming.”

The possibility that the Itaquero project might collapse had been raised by Andrés Sanchez, a former president OF Corinthians who was then briefly national teams co-ordinator with the Brazilian football confederation.

Sanchez quit after falling out with CBF president Jose Marin over the latter’s decision, last November, to sack Brazil coach Mano Menezes.

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