FIFA announces cities for dress rehearsal

The buildup to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil passed another milestone Thursday when FIFA officially confirmed the six cities that will host Confederations Cup matches next June.

The eight-team competition, which matches the champions of each confederation as well as the host nation in a mini-World Cup format, will be played in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The tournament kicks off June 15 in the National Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia and concludes June 30 at the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Former Brazilian international Ronaldo, who is working on the World Cup project, was among those in attendance at a press conference announcing the venues at the Football Museum in Sao Paulo. Though problems of work delays and cost overrans have plagued the work on the 12 stadiums that will host World Cup matches, Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo praised a high level of cooperation between the Brazilian government, FIFA and the Brazilian local organizing committee (LOC).

“There is a spirit of mutual help and effort,” said Rebelo. “With all due respect to FIFA and LOC, the most interested party in the success of the World Cup is Brazil: the government, the press, national sponsors and especially, the Brazilian people, who hold immense pride in receiving this great event and will make all efforts to make it an exemplary event.”

Seven of the eight Confederations Cup participants have been decided: host Brazil, World Cup holder and European champion Spain, Euro 2012 runner-up Italy, Copa America winner Uruguay, CONCACAF Gold Cup champion Mexico, Asian Cup titlist Japan and Oceania Nations Cup winner Tahiti.

Africa’s representative will be determined by the African Cup of Nations to be played in early 2013.

The eight teams will be divided into two groups of four by a draw to be held in Sao Paulo Dec. 1. Group play will be staged June 15-23 during which the Pernambuco Arena in Recife will host three group stage matches. Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro will each stage two group games. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals.

The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte hosts the first semi June 26 and the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza stages the second semi the following day. Play concludes June 30 with the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador hosting the third-place match and the renovated Maracana, which hosted the last game of the 1950 World Cup, staging the final.

Ticket sales for the competition begin Dec. 3. Prices range from $14 to $205.

As a FIFA competition, the Confederation Cup U.S. TV rights are held by ESPN. Those rights expire with the 2014 World Cup, after which FOX takes over.

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