x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Round-up: Brazil’s rush job to fix World Cup stadiums before opening night

Workers say ‘much to do’ but confident that work will be completed in time ahead of the opening game on June 12.

A worker works on the floor of the Arena Corinthians stadium. Diego Azubel / EPA
A worker works on the floor of the Arena Corinthians stadium. Diego Azubel / EPA

SAO PAULO // Brazilian workers are racing to complete the stadium that will host the World Cup’s first game, wiping seats, checking beams and installing wiring just days before the opening whistle.

As night fell on Saturday, helmeted workers were still toiling away on two long-delayed stands of Sao Paulo’s new Arena Corinthians, where Brazil will take on Croatia on Thursday.

The 61,600-seat stadium has come to symbolise Brazil’s preparedness struggles as authorities scramble to finish five of the tournament’s 12 venues.

The original deadline was December 31, but preparations have been hit by chronic delays, cost overruns and construction accidents that killed eight workers, including three in Sao Paulo.

The Arena Corinthians has not been tested at full capacity due to the delays in the two temporary stands, which together will welcome a total of 20,000 fans.

Despite the last-minute effort, construction workers said they were confident they would wrap up their work before Brazilian star Neymar and his teammates hit the field. “There’s still much to do,” said one worker on condition of anonymity.

Another used his sleeve to wipe sweat away from his forehead as he said: “It will be ready before the World Cup.”

His colleague was more bullish, predicting it would be done tomorrow. The workers said they still have to finish installing electrical wires and carpeting, but that the seats were ready.

The delays have contributed to the rising bill of hosting the World Cup, infuriating many Brazilians who have held protests demanding that Dilma Rousseff, the president, spend the US$11 billion (Dh40.4bn) on hospitals and education instead.

Corinthians officials say the venue will cost at least $417 million, or 14 per cent over its original budget.

A spokesman for the subcontractor building the stands, Fast Engenharia, said the firefighters finally gave the green light on Friday and that all that was left was some “cleaning” to do.

Cameroon

Cameroon’s World Cup team refused to board their scheduled plane to Brazil yesterday in a strike action over money for the tournament, officials said. Cameroon’s footballers, often led by captain Samuel Eto’o, have previously refused to play due to disagreements with the football federation over cash. The run-up to this tournament has been undermined by disagreements over the bonus payment players would receive. Volker Finke, Cameroon’s coach, said talks were underway, with the main point of contention being the US$104,000 (Dh382,000) per-player payment, which players said was not enough. Officials expected the deadlock to be broken last night.

Spain

The defending champions travelled to Brazil yesterday, optimistic about their changes of a repeat triumph. “We don’t have any fear, but we do have respect,” said Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s manager. “We’re very optimistic after our training and two friendly matches. We are confident.”

England

The day after a scoreless draw in Florida against Honduras, England’s World Cup team touched down in Rio de Janeiro already having put the friendly match behind them, Roy Hodgson said. “The game doesn’t really feature very much in my plans at all,” England’s manager said. “It’s time for the real thing now.” The game did little to help identify a first XI for their match with Italy in steamy Manaus on Saturday.

Belgium

Romelu Lukaku, the Chelsea forward, will need to rest for several days after injuring his ankle in the 61st minute of a 1-0 victory over Tunisia on Saturday. “He’s in pain, but the doctors don’t think it’s too serious, at least at first glance,” said Marc Wilmots, the Belgium coach. “Hopefully, he just needs three or four days to recover.” Belgium already have lost Christian Benteke to a ruptured Achilles tendon, leaving the Lille forward Divock Origi, 19, as their only healthy striker.

United States

Jozy Altidore broke his scoring drought with both US goals in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria on Saturday night. The Sunderland striker, who has been heavily criticised, had not scored in 2014, but netted in the 32nd and 68th minutes as the Americans recorded victories in all three games of their send-off series. They previously defeated Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Mexico

Miguel Herrera, the Mexico coach, said he still has confidence in Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez, who has 35 goals in 61 games for his country, but has not scored for Mexico since last summer. “He came on, did well and created three chances,” Herrera said of Hernandez, hinting that he might be in the playing XI when Mexico begin their World Cup against Cameroon on Friday.

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