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Portuguese side Benfica will play its next game at a different stadium in Lisbon due to poor field conditions at the club's Estádio da Luz, which will host the Champions League final later this year, according to the EFE. Benfica "installed a new playing surface at its stadium in late December that is now deteriorating due to heavy rainfall and use -- four games in a 15-day period -- in recent weeks." Because of this, Benfica's contest on Saturday will be played at Restelo stadium (EFE, 1/21).
FIFA "has issued its sternest warning yet" on World Cup preparations to a Brazilian city, announcing that the southern metropolis of Curitiba "would be dumped from the event if its stadium was not ready in less than a month," according to Joe Leahy of the FINANCIAL TIMES. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke warned of an “emergency,” with pictures showing the 43,000-seat stadium "filled with sand rather than turf only five months before the tournament." Valcke: "The stadium is not only late, it is very, very late." Valcke said that Curitiba had until Feb. 18 to get the stadium finished. Valcke: "If you don’t have a stadium you can’t have games" (FT, 1/21). In N.Y., Paul Kiernan reported Valcke's comments, made at a news conference alongside Brazilian officials, were portrayed by local newspapers "as a threat to Curitiba and represented the latest, serious blow to the country's image as it scrambles to prepare for the World Cup." Officials "presented no backup plan" should Curitiba be nixed from the list of host cities, but the 12 venues Brazil is planning to use are the most since Germany held the tournament in '06. The new doubts about Curitiba's status arose "even as ticket demand for the 2014 World Cup shattered previous records and exceeded supply more than threefold." Valcke said earlier Tuesday that FIFA "has had around 10 million requests for 3 million available tickets" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/21).
SPEEDING IT UP: REUTERS' Andrew Downie reported Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said that his government "would do everything to avoid the potential embarrassment." Rebelo: "All our efforts are focused on taking the measures that will guarantee the Parana stadium is in the 2014 World Cup. Stadium owners Atletico Paranaense said that the stadium is only 88.8% complete. It was "supposed to be ready in December," but like five other grounds due to be finished last month, "it is behind schedule" (REUTERS, 1/21). The BBC reported four matches are due to be played at the 42,000-capacity Curitiba stadium: Spain-Australia, Honduras-Ecuador, Iran-Nigeria and Algeria-Russia. The warning "should come as a wake-up call for Brazil's organising committee," which "has been criticised" for downplaying the seriousness of the delays in Curitiba and at several other venues. FIFA and the Parana state government "have promised to inject" an extra $17M to "speed up work at the venue" (BBC, 1/21).