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Brazil president cancels trip to deal with the escalating civil unrest that has overshadowed Fifa's pre-World Cup jamboree

By Greg Stobart in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil’s preparations for next year’s World Cup were again marred by widespread protests on Thursday as more than 1,000,000 people marched against the government in major cities throughout the country.

The country's president has cancelled an overseas trip to deal with the growing crisis and there were even reports last night that the Confederations Cup could be cancelled amid security fears.

Over 300,000 gathered in the centre of Rio de Janeiro alone, where police used tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse some demonstrators, while there were also clashes between police and protesters in Salvador ahead of Uruguay’s match against Nigeria.

Among other places to witness mass protests were the Confederations Cup host cities Brasilia and Fortaleza, as well as Sao Paulo, the country's largest city which will host matches at the World Cup next year.

The protests, which started over a rise in bus fares, have gathered pace since demonstrators began to target matches at the Confederations Cup, a warm-up event for next summer's World Cup, at the start of the tournament last weekend.

The anti-government rallies are being used to express anger over a number of issues, including poor public services, police violence, high inflation and the cost of hosting major sporting events, with the 2016 Olympics also taking place in Rio.

Brazilians across the country are angry with the high ticket prices for the World Cup and, more pertinently, the expense of building the 12 stadiums for the tournament, which they feel has come at the cost of investment in healthcare and education.

The competition is estimated to cost the Brazilian government almost €12 billion.

In a country where there is a huge wealth gap between the rich and the poor, the public purse has been forced to finance much of the stadium construction after World Cup organisers and local clubs failed to attract the anticipated private investment for the projects.

The largest scale wave of protests in Brazil in 20 years, which are expected to continue throughout the Confederations Cup, have been backed by a number of current players including Neymar, Dani Alves, Hulk and David Luiz.

"I'm in favour of demonstrations without violence," said the Chelsea man on Tuesday. "Citizens have a right to express their opinions and the fact they're not happy. It's a way of achieving their demands and improving the situation in the country.

"The demonstrators are fighting for health and education. We need unity. We hope that we can reach a consensus and that the future will be better.”

Fifa sources told Goal that it is highly unlikely they would take the radical decision to cancel the tournament.

However, reports circulating in Brazil suggest tournament volunteers are threatening to quit because of the way Fifa have treated them.

Not being able to see games, sub-standard food and a lack of organisation have prompted them to make a petition to take to authorities if Fifa do not respond to their grievances.

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