2014 FIFA World Cup: Brazil may need to score some late construction goals
As any football fan who has seen Pele, Ronaldo or Kaka will testify, you can never write-off the Brazilians until the final whistle.
Trailing 0-2 with five minutes to go? No problem – it only takes the requisite stroke of genius to make it 3-2 and send the yellow-shirted Samba hordes into hip-swivelling delirium.
And while he may not be known as much of a dancer, Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo is definitely a mover and a shaker and, like his soccer-playing compatriots, is aiming to achieve some late, late goals.
With the Brazilian World Cup just two years away, he is confident that all the stadiums and infrastructure projects will be finished – even though a new report has set alarm bells ringing with news that, so far, only 5% have been completed, while many haven’t even started.
"It shouldn't be considered a problem that these projects haven't started yet," he insisted.
"It doesn't mean we have delays just because work on these projects hasn't started. The planning process is just as important as the execution process. Everything is on schedule. We feel the work will be delivered on time, before 2014."
The report indicated that 41% of the infrastructure work across the country had yet to start, and 15% of those projects were still in the planning stages.
The sports minister also rebuffed renewed criticism from Sepp Blatter about Brazil's pace of preparations.
"I think Brazil has too great of a challenge for us to keep arguing publicly with officials in charge of the World Cup or any other event," Rebelo said.
"Pessimism and optimism have always been part of the country's evolution and sometimes they can contaminate foreign officials like Joseph Blatter. And it's hard to change that."
He added: "We are open to criticism. We don't own the truth. People will have different views. The government has its own opinion and it's optimistic that it will overcome all the challenges of the World Cup."
The report said there are 101 projects in total, including airport upgrades, and road construction, needed to improve the 12 cities hosting matches in 2014. It said 55 of the projects were underway, an increase from the numbers released in September 2011, when only about 30 had started.
"The report shows a significant improvement compared to the previous one," Rebelo said. "And the next one in October should show an even greater improvement."
About 80% of the infrastructure work is expected to be completed by 2013, the government said.
Cities minister Aguinaldo Ribeiro said some of Brazil's biggest challenges involved environmental issues, planning delays and construction difficulties.
"But we are confident we can make progress and overcome these challenges in a short period of time," he said.
The report also showed that 42% of the projects needed to upgrade Brazil's outdated airports haven't started yet, and that eight of the 12 World Cup stadiums were less than 50% completed.
Construction in venues in Natal, Cuiaba and Porto Alegre were less than 25% done, but the government said construction in all stadiums was going according to plan and would be completed in time for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup.