On eve of Confederations Cup draw, FIFA upbeat about ticket sales
As organizers prepare for the Confederations Cup draw, FIFA is upbeat about tickets sales and pleased with Brazil's preparations — even though it doesn't expect everything to be perfect when the tournament kicks off next year.
On the eve of the draw, FIFA said Friday that more than 130,000 tickets have been sold for the tournament among continental champions, 13 times more than the amount sold at the same stage by South Africa in 2009.
The number was achieved in a little more than a week into the pre-sale phase, opened only for purchases made through the credit card company sponsoring the event. The rest of the tickets will go on sale on Monday.
"It is great to see such huge excitement for the FIFA Confederations Cup here in Brazil," FIFA President Sepp Blatter said. "Everybody has high anticipation for this 'Festival of Champions', from the teams to the fans and the government."
The most popular matches were the semifinal in Belo Horizonte, the final at Maracana in Rio de Janeiro and the opening match in the capital of Brasilia. Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte each sold nearly 30,000 tickets for the three matches each city will host.
"This is extremely good news," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said. "It shows the passion of Brazilians for football, not only for the Brazilian national team but for all the teams, all the champions."
The two groups for the eight-team warm-up tournament for the World Cup will be unveiled on Saturday. Host Brazil is set to face European runner-up Italy in the first round, while world champion Spain is sure of facing South American champion Uruguay.
"Tomorrow is the most important day of the year for us," said Jose Maria Marin, the president of Brazil's 2014 World Cup organizing committee. "After an entire year of planning, we will finally find out the matchups for the Confederations Cup. Brazil will start attracting even more attention beginning tomorrow."
The other participating nations are CONCACAF Gold Cup winner Mexico, Asian champion Japan and Oceania champion Tahiti. The final spot will go to the winner of the 2013 African Cup of nations, which will be decided in February.
Italy will go to Group A with Brazil because teams from the same continent cannot be drawn together, which is also why Uruguay will join Spain in Group B.
"Spain is going through a great moment and we hope to continue doing well during the Confederations Cup next year," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said in Sao Paulo.
Newly appointed Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said the tournament will give teams a chance to prepare for the World Cup.
"It's a great opportunity for all the coaches to analyze their teams in an official competition, against great teams," Scolari said.
Next year's event will have teams with 12 World Cup titles among them — five for Brazil, four for Italy, two for Uruguay and one for Spain.
"We want to come here not only with a team with great players, but also a team that can have new interesting young players," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said.
After receiving an update on the preparations in the six host cities, Blatter said he was satisfied with the work being done in Brazil.
"This determination gives me not only the impression but the security that everything will be ready on time," he said. "We know that not everything is perfect. But perfection does not exist. But it will be ready on time, I'm sure."
The tournament is expected to be played with goal-line technology in place, as well as "drinking and cooling procedures" recommended by FIFA's medical committee, allowing referees to stop matches to give players a break if temperatures are high.
The other three host cities for the Confederations Cup are Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador.