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Football: FIFA's Valcke insists Brazil wants World Cup

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke insisted Monday that Brazilians still want to host the World Cup, the target of outraged protests against its more than $11-billion budget.

"Headlines are screaming that Brazilians don't want the World Cup. This is not reflected in public opinion polls nor by what we have witnessed on the ground in Brazil," Valcke said in a statement released soon after he arrived in the country to oversee final preparations for the June 12-July 13 tournament.

"This is reinforced by the 11 million-plus ticket requests made to date: a figure unprecedented in the event's history," he said.

He cited a poll by research firm Sponsorship Intelligence that found 57 percent of Brazilians, a country of 200 million people, were "very excited" about the World Cup.

"There's no doubt: 'Vai ter Copa'" -- there will be a Cup -- he said, inverting one of the slogans chanted by protesters, "There won't be a Cup, there will be a strike!"

One million people took to the streets during last year's Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament, calling for money spent on the two events to be redirected to urgent needs in education, health care and transport.

The movement has since shrunk in numbers but grown more radical, and there are fears the protests, which turned violent at times, could erupt again during the World Cup.

Brazil has also struggled to deliver stadiums and infrastructure on time, and Valcke vowed to ensure organizers got everything done before the opening match between the hosts and Croatia.

"We have busy days ahead of us with still a lot to be done," he said, announcing plans to tour all 12 host cities.

Valcke, FIFA's top task-master for host country preparations, has had a rocky relationship with Brazil.

The Frenchman caused uproar two years ago when he was quoted as saying that Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to get ready in time.

Valcke and FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter later apologized.

FIFA originally demanded Brazil have all 12 stadiums ready for December 31, but deadline after deadline has passed unmet.

Valcke said Monday all stadiums would be handed over to FIFA 21 days from their first matches, starting with Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena on Wednesday and ending with the stadiums in Curitiba, Natal and Salvador on Thursday.

Corinthians Arena, which will host the kick-off match, is still partly under construction. It held a test event Sunday at just over half capacity that was marred by malfunctioning elevators, spotty cell phone coverage and an unfinished roof that left some fans exposed to a drenching rain.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140519/football-fifas-valcke-insists-brazil-wants-world-cup