RIO DE JANEIRO: World federation FIFA is thrilled with the quality of the World Cup as it heads into the knockout stage writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

A goals-per-game average of 2.83 and 2.5m spectators so far plus a take-off of the fan fests has handed FIFA a feel-good factor of both delight and relief after all the prophecies of gloom and doom which preceded the first finals back in South America for 36 years.

All in one rhythm . . . the world's fans in Brazil

Most of FIFA’s stress has been carried by secretary-general Jerome Valcke who was landed with the task of encouraging, cajoling, pushing and sometimes kicking the Brazilians along after initial preparatory years of indolence.

Valcke, the man who once said that the hosts needed a “kick up the backside” had no compunction – at midway report briefing – in delivering a stream of compliments about the tournament.

Fan fest fun

“This World Cup will definitely remain as one of the best ever when we talk about football played,” said Valcke with an unspoken caveat about the stage itself. He added: “It’s amazing, the level and quality of the football we have seen and I’m sure it will be the same for the games coming.”

Several of the host cities had whinged and complained about investing ny time, effort and money into the fan fests and Valcke clearly felt vindicated by their success with around 3m visitors recorded.

He said: “The fan fests, which were sometimes an issue in some of the cities, have shown why have we were fighting for them because it is a part of the World Cup. It is a perfect place to enjoy the games not only in the host cities.

“Also, there are so many fans here without tickets and the fan fests provided the reason for them to have a great time.”

Valcke noted that television ratings were setting records far in excess of figures generated by the 2010 finals in South Africa and, in particular, in the United States “where we have reached a level which is unique.”

Equally satisfied was Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.

Even in terms of public security, which had been a major concern, he felt relaxed enought to report “just a problem here and there but that is understandable in an event of this size.”

Visitor spending

Airports, hotel sector and urban transport sectors had all coped “according to what we expected,” the finals had created one million jobs, foreign visitors had spent $36m so far and more Brazilians than is usualy at this time of the year had stayed home to enjoy the World Cup.

“The government has tried to do its part,” added Rebelo, “to fulfil its responsibility to ensure the infrastructure and people’s security and make its contribution to give the World Cup all the success that it deserves.”

All in all, said Rebelo with a modestly paternalistic turn of phrase, “the World Cup is coming along very nicely.”

Valcke, having seen all the pluses and minuses of the process, was not prepared to go quite that far.

He has always sought to avoid the hyperbole employed by presidents Rousseff (Brazil) and Blatter (FIFA).

Even he, however, became so caught up in the momentum he dared concede that “what we have seen gives the feeling it will be an amazing World Cup and is on its way to be the ‘Cup of Cups.'”

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