Fifa concerned over progress

Executive committee of football's governing body is concerned about the progress for the 2018 World Cup with a number of areas falling behind schedule.

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MOSCOW // Jerome Valcke, the secretary general of Fifa, on Friday issued a scathing assessment of Brazil's 2014 World Cup preparations.

Stadium development plus work on airports and the transport system are lagging well behind schedule, prompting Valcke to suggest the main aim in Brazil was to win the World Cup rather than organise a successful tournament.

"They have much still to deliver," he said at the Inside World Football Moscow Forum, a major conference on the hosting of football events, in the Russian capital.

"We do not have the stadia, we don't have airports, we don't have a national transportation system in place."

Valcke emphasised that Fifa considers the awarding of a World Cup to a host country to be a final judgement.

But his unusually blunt remarks came after criticism of Brazil's preparations by Sepp Blatter, Fifa's embattled president, in March.

"We cannot have a stadium ready at the last minute … meaning that it will already be two months or two weeks prior to the World Cup," Valcke said.

He unfavourably compared Brazil's preparations to the progress of Russia, which only last year was awarded the right to host the 2018 edition of the World Cup.

"The stadia are the most important things," he said. "We are more advanced in Russia even than we are in Brazil."

He expressed particular concern over the situation in Sao Paulo, the city which is hoping to host the opening match.

"Sao Paulo maybe will be ready just a few weeks before the World Cup," he said. "To deliver stadia is the most important part. It must not be a stadium which is ready at the last minute."

"It must be a faster process."

In March, Blatter warned the Brazilian authorities, saying he was waiting for "a bit of effect" from the five-time World Cup winners "because it's not moving forward, it's not moving forward very fast".

Added Blatter: "What they should do in Brazil is put a little bit more speed in the organisation."

By contrast, Valcke lavished praise on Russia, which fought off rivals bids from England and Spain. "The political support for this in Russia has been astounding. I have personally not seen this level of political support anywhere before."

Valcke was appearing at the forum after becoming embroiled in a controversy over Qatar's successful 2022 bid, which resulted in him denying a suggestion in an e-mail that Qatar was guilty of corruption.