Socceroos-Spain clash to be relocated?

Will the Socceroos be forced to plan for a different World Cup venue? Adam Lucius runs you through the current situation surrounding the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba.

The Socceroos will know by Wednesday morning whether they'll be on the move for their World Cup group game against defending champs Spain. A final FIFA inspection will determine whether the stadium in Curitiba will be ready in time.

The story so far

The Arena de Baixada in Curitiba is due to the host four World Cup games, including Australia's clash with defending champions Spain on June 23. Construction work on the stadium is so far behind schedule that, having missed every FIFA deadline, there are genuine concerns it won't be ready in time. The ground was built in 1999 but renovation work has been beset with problem after problem. There have been safety concerns which led to a suspension of construction late last year and a financial blow-out. If the games are moved, it will be massive logistical nightmare for organisers, teams and supporters.

The governing body is desperately hoping it doesn't have to pull the switch on Curitiba. But with four months until the World Cup kick-off, the time has come for a decision one way or the other. The state of Parana, the city of Curitiba and local club Atletico Paranaense all insist work will be completed by mid-April. That's three months after FIFA's final deadline for construction work. No wonder Sepp and his boys are concerned. Deeply concerned.  

The Architect
According to Carlos Arcos, who has overseen the Curitiba project, there is nothing to worry about. He declared all work on track, with the seats and turf now in place and just tidying up work to be done. "Tomorrow (inspection day) is just like any other day. We've had a lot of visits from FIFA in which FIFA is always concerned, logically of course, to make sure that the stadium is really in good conditions for the World Cup. And it will be. We aren't going to have any problems," Arcos declared. It remains to be seen if FIFA shares Senor Arcos's optimism.

Football Federation Australia is adopting a wait and see attitude to Curitiba, with no firm contingency plan in place. Obviously FIFA's final decision could change things dramatically, although coach Ange Postecoglou refuses to even think about a venue switch. He said: "I've put absolutely zero thought into that. I've got more important things to worry about. We'll play in the car park if we have to; we've just got to be ready to play. When I was there in December, the stadium was almost complete so I'm really surprised that they're still having some issues." Asked what the latest word was from FIFA, a FFA spokesman told Sportal on Tuesday: "We have not heard a thing." 

The Fans
Warren Livingstone, head of Australian supporters' group The Fanatics, has 1500 Socceroos fans headed to Curitiba. He is in no doubt the game will be played as scheduled."It'll go ahead. Every World Cup there is a story about grounds not being ready in time and it always works out. We're telling fans not to stress out. I'm not stressed out about it." Pity FIFA can't say the same thing.