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Football: Rousseff says Brazil will meet Cup challenges


Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff on Monday insisted her giant nation would pull off a successful World Cup, swatting aside FIFA criticism that the hosts started preparing late.

"We love football and so we shall proudly receive the Cup and make it the Cup of Cups," Rousseff insisted on her Twitter feed.

"Demand for tickets is the biggest there has been for any Cup and that shows fans across the world have confidence in Brazil," she added.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, in an interview published Sunday in Switzerland, chided Brazil for being slow to start preparations for its first World Cup since 1950.

"Brazil has come to realize that they started too late. They are the country who are the most delayed (in terms of World Cup organization) since I have been at FIFA," Blatter told Swiss newspaper 24 Hours.

"Yet they are the only country who have had such a long time -- seven years -- to prepare."

The tournament kicks off June 12 with a match in Sao Paulo between five-time champions Brazil and Croatia.

But the build-up has been plagued by construction delays and spiraling costs, as well as civil unrst over the billions being spent on the tournament as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Rousseff, who was booed along with Blatter when she attended last June's Confederations Cup dressrehearsal, responded by insisting Brazil will get it right on the night.

"Brazilians start 2014 confident in our hosting," she said.

"In Brazil, the Cup will be at home, as this is the land of football," she concluded.

"The tourists will have the opportunity to get to know this multicultural and resilient country," the leftist leader added.

"Everyone who comes to Brazil will be well received," she said. "We are a happy, welcoming people."

Blatter said in his interview that he was optimistic the tournament would go well, despite several stadia still yet to be completed.

A double fatality in late November at the Sao Paulo arena staging the opening match put back the completion schedule and tests will only take place there in mid-April.

There have also been construction worker deaths in the Amazonian city of Manaus on two occasions, as well as in the capital city Brasilia.

FIFA originally had insisted all 12 venues had to be ready by December 31, but was compelled to drop the deadline after it became clear that almost half the venues would not meet it.

The specter of further social unrest also hangs over the event, despite most Brazilians saying they back the event itself.

Blatter insists security will be state of the art, and said in his Swiss interview that "I believe that Brazilians will not attack football directly. This is the sport's home, it's a religion."