The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Coaches vigilant of Brazil's preparations for World Cup, but downplay problems
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil - National team coaches are keeping a close eye on Brazil's troubled World Cup preparations, but are confident that the problems will be solved in time.
After a workshop in Brazil on Wednesday, some of the coaches who will return with their teams in June cited traffic and street protests as things to watch for during the World Cup. However, they predicted that the hosts would deliver a successful tournament.
Brazil is struggling to finish all the work needed for football's showcase event.
Five stadiums remain under construction with less than four months before the opener on June 12. One host city was on the brink of being excluded from the competition, and widespread demonstrations against the local government are expected.
More than 20 coaches are attending the FIFA-run workshop to discuss organizational details ahead of the tournament.
The fears of violence during the World Cup stem from last June's protests that erupted around Brazil against corruption, poor public services and the billions of dollars being spent on the World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
No matches were delayed during last year's Confederations Cup, although protests raged near the stadiums on several occasions.
"I believe everything will go well, the only problem could be the protests," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. "It's possible that they will happen at some point, and they could come by surprise, maybe outside a stadium or during a match."
The coaches had a taste of what could lie ahead when a few dozen demonstrators gathered outside the upscale resort where the workshop is taking place in the southern city of Florianopolis. Some carried banners saying "Go away FIFA" and "End Poverty." Police were on standby but no confrontations were reported.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, acting as an unofficial host at the workshop, said some of the concerns from coaches who talked to him were related to the training centres.
"In general everyone is happy," Scolari said. "In a few occasions they asked me about the training centres that they will be using. But they will start visiting these locations and will have a better understanding of what to expect."
Greece coach Fernando Santos said he doesn't expect major setbacks in the monthlong tournament, although he is worried with the humid weather players will face and the possibility of heavy traffic in some of the host cities.
"The roads maybe will be a problem," Santos said. "If you have traffic, 'bye-bye!' Two hours in the bus is not good."
Delays with infrastructure work is among the main problems facing Brazilian authorities, although delays in stadium construction is probably top of FIFA's list of concerns, especially after the southern city of Curitiba was nearly excluded from the tournament. FIFA said on Tuesday the city will be allowed to host matches, but the venue won't be ready until about a month before the opener.
"I have some 25 years of experience with FIFA events and in the end everything will be all right, maybe with a tweak here or a tweak there," Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. "There was a lot of speculation before the Confederations Cup, too, and it was a fantastic event."
Portugal coach Paulo Bento also expected a successful tournament despite the preparation problems.
"I believe that everything will get done in time," he said. "The teams will have the proper conditions to be able to prepare themselves and play the best football possible."
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