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Brazilian authorities happy with work at World Cup venue, expect Curitiba to remain host city

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SAO PAULO - Brazilian authorities said Wednesday the pace of construction has improved at the delayed World Cup stadium in Curitiba and are optimistic the southern city will still be able to host games.

A local government commission monitoring the work is expected to issue a report next week, but a city official told The Associated Press he doesn't think there will be a reason to drop Curitiba as a host city.

"All we've seen so far is very positive," Curitiba's urban planning secretary Reginaldo Cordeiro said in a telephone interview. "Work is progressing and the pace of construction has improved significantly."

FIFA said local officials have until Feb. 18 to show the city will be able to finish the stadium in time for the World Cup in June. Football's governing body will make its own evaluation to decide whether to keep games in Curitiba.

Cordeiro said a lot has been done since FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke visited the site and gave his ultimatum earlier this month. He noted that the pitch has been installed and the roofing structure is almost finalized. There were no signs of grass at the venue when Valcke made his inspection tour and said the stadium wasn't "only late, it was very late."

"Things have improved since then," Cordeiro said.

Brazil promised to deliver all 12 World Cup stadiums by the end of 2013, but five are still under construction and the Arena da Baixada is one that may not be ready until about two months before the tournament's June 12 start.

Local organizers in the nearby city of Porto Alegre told Brazilian media this week that FIFA already contacted them to discuss the possibility of using the newly built Arena Gremio as an alternative to the Arena da Baixada.

The stadium in Curitiba is being built by Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense, but city and state officials are monitoring the work along with FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee. The local government commission was expected to release a report on Wednesday, but Cordeiro said there wasn't enough time to finalize all the studies in time. The new report, which should say when the stadium will be ready, is expected to be completed by the end of next week.

The stadium is scheduled to host four matches, including Australia against defending champion Spain on June 23.

Dropping Curitiba as a host city would be a major headache for FIFA, which has already sold more than 1 million tickets for the tournament.

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

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