(WFI) FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has praised construction progress at Natal’s Estadio das Dunas during his Monday visit, the first stop on his final host city tour before the Confederations Cup kicks off.

He checked out the arena in the company of Ronaldo and Bebeto, LOC board of administration members.

The Estadio das Dunas, which is set to host four games at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, all group matches, is scheduled to be officially unveiled in December.

Valcke said: “We’re certain that the stadium will be handed over on time and that the mobility works will be completed. Natal and Rio Grande do Norte have shown great commitment right from the start, and for that reason it’s a pleasure to be here.

“I’d also like to thank the workers, as we’re going to have a great arena for the FIFA World Cup.”

Luis Fernandes, executive secretary of Brazil’s Ministry of Sport, added: “This visit has reinforced the monitoring that we’ve been carrying out and also brings reassuring news: that progress on the stadium is running ahead of schedule.

“That proves the level of integration between the state and the city council, who’ve understood that an event which launches the city’s profile across the whole planet is an opportunity that can’t be missed.”

Maracana Gets New Owners

The Maracana stadium’s privatisation is going ahead after a Rio de Janeiro court overturned a judge’s ruling to block the move following claims of irregularities in the bidding process.

According to a BBC report, the president of the city’s Court of Justice argued that the suspension order granted last Friday by the prosecutor’s office would “seriously compromise” Rio’s ability to stage the final of next year’s World Cup and the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The court’s decision means the winning bid consortium, which includes Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and US sports entertainment firm AEG, will manage the stadium for the next 35 years.

Built for the 1950 World Cup, the stadium has undergone a $500 million-plus renovation to prepare it for the Confederations Cup and World Cup.

The Brazil v England friendly on June 2 will officially open the stadium.

The Maracana will stage three matches, including the final, of the June 15-30 Confederations Cup.

Confederations Cup Ticket Sales

More than 622,613 tickets, or 74% per cent of the total inventory, have been sold for the Confederations Cup which kicks off in Brasilia on June 15.

The first sales phase ends tomorrow. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase any remaining tickets online or over the counter at any of the six FIFA Venue Ticketing Centres from June 1.

“We hope, and expect, to achieve strong attendances for all 16 matches, and I believe that this tournament will give teams hoping to qualify for next year’s World Cup a taste of what to expect from the famous Brazilian crowds,” said FIFA’s marketing director Thierry Weil.

Selection Dilemma for Brazil National Team

Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is due to announce his squad for the Confederations Cup today. The main debate is whether he will choose Atlético Mineiro’s Ronaldinho or Real Madrid’s Kaká as Scolari.

According to Sambafoot.com, Carlos Alberto Parreira has announced six players he fully expects to be in Brazil’s squad for the World Cup.

“Thiago Silva and David Luiz are certainly going to be called up. Daniel Alves, Júlio César, Fred and Neymar too,” he was quoted.

He said some difficult decisions had to be made. “One of them is Kaká or Ronaldinho Gaúcho. Many people think neither should be called up, other people think both should be. And others think only one of them should and the other one shouldn’t,” he added.

By INSIDER’s Mark Bisson

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