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FIFA postpones final test event for World Cup opener after concerns from local authorities

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SAO PAULO - FIFA and local organizers have postponed the final test event at the troubled World Cup stadium in Sao Paulo, raising fresh uncertainty about Brazil's readiness to stage the tournament opener in the city.

Following concerns from local authorities, FIFA said Wednesday that a test match scheduled for May 29, a Thursday, has been moved to the following Sunday to avoid disrupting the city's "operational routine" on a working day.

Soccer's governing body said it also decided to stage the game on a weekend to "ensure it attracts more than 50,000" fans needed to properly test the venue.

Less than 40,000 people attended the first test match at the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo last weekend, when the 20,000 temporary seats being added for the opening game of the tournament couldn't be used.

The new test event will be staged less than two weeks before the high-profile opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, when 70,000 fans and guests are expected.

"It (is) vital for us that all facilities will be tested under full match conditions," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Twitter. "Including the temporary seats (and) associated facilities."

The change in date comes amid a bus strike in Sao Paulo that has created chaos for people trying to get to work in the South American metropolis already known for its terrible rush-hour traffic.

FIFA said in a statement that it was a "request from local authorities" to have the match on a weekend to "reduce the impact on the city's operational routine."

The World Cup opener will also fall on a Thursday, but city officials are expected to declare holidays on match days during the tournament.

FIFA said it was important to have another test match at the Itaquerao "given the attention drawn from the opening match."

Only one test event had been initially scheduled for the Itaquerao because it was among the most delayed stadiums for the World Cup. The venue was expected to be completed by the end of last year, but two construction accidents that killed a total of three workers caused significant delays.

Among the problems last weekend were a leaking roof and faulty communications for fans and journalists.

The second test match was to be played between stadium owner Corinthians and Brazilian champion Cruzeiro in the Brazilian league. Now it will be Corinthians against Botafogo, the Rio de Janeiro club that was originally scheduled to be the home team.

The Brazilian soccer federation said FIFA requested the change citing a "necessity to make adjustments" at the Itaquerao. The federation said it accepted the request "because of the importance of the subject."

Valcke arrived in Brazil on Monday to oversee Brazil's final preparations for soccer's showcase event. He will tour all 12 host cities again to make sure everything is in place for the tournament.

He said it was "great to see the progress" made at the Arena Pantanal in the western city of Cuiaba, but noted there was a need to "work at full throttle to turn the arena" into a stadium ready for the World Cup.

Valcke also praised the southern city of Curitiba on Tuesday, saying there was "great progress on work to deliver (a) top-class stadium."

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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