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Brazilian host city guarantees delayed stadium will be ready in time for World Cup

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SAO PAULO - Local organizers in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba insisted Thursday they've complied with requests by FIFA to guarantee its delayed stadium will be finished in time for the World Cup in June.

The announcement comes five days before FIFA will decide whether the city will remain in the World Cup or the four matches scheduled for the venue will move to one of the other 11 host cities.

FIFA gave an ultimatum to local organizers last month, saying they had until Tuesday to show work at the Arena da Baixada could be finished in time.

The state of Parana, the city of Curitiba and local club Atletico Paranaense, in charge of building the stadium, released a joint statement saying they have done everything necessary.

The Arena da Baixada is scheduled to host defending champion Spain against Australia on June 23. The other matches at the venue will be Iran-Nigeria on June 16, Algeria-Russia on June 26 and Honduras-Ecuador on June 30.

Even if FIFA allows Curitiba to remain as a host city, the stadium is not expected to be fully finished until sometime in April, two months before the World Cup starts. One of FIFA's concerns is whether it will have time to install all temporary facilities needed at the site.

Lack of funds has been the greatest problem affecting the stadium construction in Curitiba, but the state government said in the joint statement that it requested a loan of about $100 million from a Brazilian government-owned bank on Wednesday.

World Cup organizers last week also told local officials to increase the number of workers at the stadium to make sure the work could be completed in time. Atletico Paranaense said that would be done as soon as the loan was approved.

"We believe the analysis of this loan request will be prioritized," the statement said.

Brazil's Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, in charge of the country's World Cup preparations, visited Curitiba last week and said everything would be done to guarantee the loan as soon as possible.

Adding more workers was one of the requests made by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke in late January, along with the implementation of financial guarantees and the improvement in the pace of construction.

Dropping Curitiba would be a major headache for FIFA, which has already sold more than 1 million tickets for the tournament. FIFA has denied it is already planning what to do if the stadium isn't ready, but it's likely the four matches would be distributed to nearby cities.

Spain has already announced that it will train in Curitiba during the World Cup.

The Arena da Baixada is one of five stadiums still under construction ahead of the opener on June 12. Brazil had promised FIFA to have all 12 venues ready by the end of last year.

Valcke will visit three host cities starting on Sunday — Manaus, Brasilia and Porto Alegre. He will also attend a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup teams in the southern city of Florianopolis, as well as a board meeting of the local World Cup organizing committee.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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