Amazonian mayor: We don't want English here
THE Mayor of Manaus has responded indignantly to Roy Hodgson's preference for avoiding the city when today's draw is made.
Arthur Virgilio Neto said: "We Amazonians also prefer that England do not come. We hope a better national side comes, with more football and a more sensitive, cultured and educated coach.
"Here is one of the few people in the world who isn't curious about the Amazon and doesn't dream of knowing Manaus."
Neto pointed out that Brazil had won more World Cups than any other nation, playing in any location regardless of the climate.
"This should be the spirit of all and every national side that intends to win," he added.
"I spent my youth competing in sport. When I won, I won. When I lost, I didn't blame the weather or my coach. If I slept badly or well, this didn't interest anyone. Excuses show a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence."
Meanwhile, Sepp Blatter has admitted that FIFA was praying for World Cup stadiums to be finished on time after revealing the venue for the opening game would not be ready until mid-April.
FIFA president Blatter claimed he was powerless to deal with the construction delays that have dogged preparations for next summer's tournament and could result in half the grounds not meeting this month's deadline for completion.
He announced that Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians, scheduled to stage the World Cup's big kick-off on June 12, would not open until April 14 at the earliest and declared there was no Plan B if it failed to do so.
It was the third time in as many days FIFA officials had been forced to revise their estimates on when all 12 stadiums would be ready, having first suggested February and then March before Blatter's latest revelation.
Six grounds in total may miss December's deadline, with the venue in Curitiba unlikely to be open until March, and those in Cuiaba and Manaus a month before that.
Stadiums in Natal and Porto Alegre might also not be ready until January but it is the stricken Arena Corinthians that is causing the greatest alarm.
A police investigation is still under way into what caused a crane to crash into the stadium and kill two construction workers just over a week ago. Until that probe is complete, crucial building work on the venue cannot be concluded. Blatter said: "FIFA will ask God, Allah, whoever, that no more accidents shall arise." (© Daily Telegraph, London)