SAO PAULO (AP) — The southern city of Curitiba is expected to remain in the World Cup despite construction delays on its stadium, Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said Wednesday.
During a visit to the city, he expressed confidence that local organizers will be able to show FIFA that the stadium will be ready in time to hold its four matches scheduled for football's showcase event in June.
FIFA has said a decision on whether to drop Curitiba from the tournament will be made Feb. 18.
"The expectations are the best possible," Rebelo said. "There has been progress made on the pitch, on the number of workers and on equipment. This gives us more confidence that things have improved."
Brazil promised to finish all 12 World Cup stadiums by the end of last year as wanted by FIFA, but five remain under construction with four months until the tournament opens June 12.
Having Curitiba dropped from the tournament would be an embarrassment to Brazil and a disaster to FIFA, which has already sold more than 1 million tickets for matches.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said last week in the governing body's weekly magazine that any changes now "would be an admission of failure for Brazil, but also for FIFA," especially considering the 12 host cities were announced nearly five years ago.
"This should have been ample time in which to complete the infrastructure," Blatter said. "FIFA can draw attention to omissions. However, responsibility rests with the local organizing committee."
Blatter added that he was "staying relaxed" because delays are common in preparations for every World Cup and Olympics.
"At the end of the day everything ran smoothly for the most part," he said. "All will be well."
Curitiba's stadium, Arena da Baixada, is being built by the Brazilian football club Atletico Paranaense. It is scheduled to host Iran-Nigeria on June 16, Australia-Spain on June 23, Algeria-Russia on June 26 and Honduras-Ecuador on June 30.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni