Football: FIFA back-track as Maracana concerns deepen

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke performed a remarkable U-turn on Thursday when he admitted he didn't know if Rio's emblematic Maracana stadium will be ready for June's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

The famous old stadium in Rio de Janeiro that hosted the final match of the 1950 World Cup has been undergoing a makeover since December 2012.

There had been concern that reconstruction was falling behind schedule, particularly following heavy rains in the city on Tuesday night that left parts of the site flooded and forced a planned FIFA inspection on Wednesday to be shelved.

But having taken to his Twitter account to allay concerns, Valcke changed tack later on Thursday when he admitted that reconstruction work may yet be delayed.

Valcke is due to meet with the local organising committee, the Rio government and constructors Odebrecht on Friday to discuss the issue.

"It will be a meeting to discuss every part of the stadium ... so we can ensure ourselves that there is a clear understanding of what will be ready on April 27," said Valcke, before adding: "or if something will be missing."

He had earlier posted on his @jeromevalcke account his assertion that everything was on schedule, saying: "Delighted that Rio's governor, (Sergio) Cabral, reconfirmed in our meeting that the Maracana will be opened on April 27, 2013."

However, newspaper O Globo published photos on Thursday showing there was no grass on the pitch, which was flooded with water, thousands of seats had yet to be fitted in the stands and only a part of the roof had been built.

The local government claims that 87 percent of the rebuilding work has been completed and the stadium remains on course to host matches not just at the Confederations Cup later this year but also the World Cup in 2014.

"It's true that the photo with water isn't perfect but this can happen, as long as the ready date is respected," added Valcke.

"We're holding to April 27, that's always been the date for us and nothing has changed.

"But as you see in the different stadiums inaugurated these last few weeks, there are always problems and that's why we need time between the inauguration day and the day the stadium will be used."

The official presentation of the Maracana to FIFA was supposed to take place in February but had to be postponed until May 24, some three weeks before the start of the Confederations Cup on June 15 when Brazil play Asian champions Japan in Brasilia.

The first match in the Maracana is due to be a friendly between Brazil and England on June 2 while the first Confederations Cup match to be held there will be on June 16 between Mexico and Italy.