SAO PAULO (AP) — The action at the Confederations Cup will go from the nation's capital to the coastal cities in the northeast to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
Six cities will stage matches at the World Cup warm-up tournament starting Saturday. The capital of Brasilia will host the opener in a new stadium and the renovated Maracana Stadium will hold the final on June 30.
The central city of Belo Horizonte, filled with football tradition, will also host matches, along with northeastern venues of Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza.
Six other cities will also host World Cup matches next year — Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba, Natal and the jungle city of Manaus.
Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city, is out of the Confederations Cup because if didn't build a stadium in time.
"I'm certain that Brazil will shine on and off the field," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said. "Everyone who comes to watch the matches will see that we know how to be hosts and that we are a peaceful and happy country. I'm certain that everyone who comes to visit us will fall in love with the country and will want to return for the World Cup next year."
Rio de Janeiro, with its famous beaches and world-renowned attractions such as the Christ the Redeemer statue and the Sugar Loaf mountain, will be the center stage of the Confederations Cup. In addition to the final at the Maracana, the city is home to the local headquarters of FIFA and Brazil's World Cup organizing committee.
The Maracana went through its third renovation — and biggest ever — to be ready for the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, when it will accommodate nearly 77,000 fans. After almost three years closed because of construction work, it reopened in April, almost five months after the original deadline set by FIFA.
The Estadio Nacional in Brasilia also was delayed, opening less than a month before it hosts Brazil vs. Japan in the opener on Saturday. It will be the only Confederations Cup match in the city. All other cities will host three matches.
The 70,000-capacity Estadio Nacional has been called locally the Mane Garrincha Stadium, in honor of the striker who helped Brazil win the 1958 and 1962 World Cup along with Pele. The stadium's construction has been criticized because Brasilia doesn't have a top football team and there are fears the venue — one of the most expensive built for the upcoming tournament — will become a "white elephant."
The city of Brasilia, Brazil's political center, was built in the late 1950s to replace Rio de Janeiro as the nation's capital. It's known for its remarkable architectural features, many of them built by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Belo Horizonte is one of the most traditional football cities in Brazil, divided nearly equally by fans from Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro. The city will host one of the tournament's semifinal matches, but was a bit unlucky in the draw. The match between Tahiti and Nigeria had only about 10,000 tickets sold a month before the tournament.
Matches in Belo Horizonte will be played at the renovated Mineirao, one of Brazil's most traditional football venues. It will seat more than 62,000 people.
The other three host cities are located in the northeastern region.
Salvador, Brazil's third-largest city after Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, is known for its passionate football fans and for its world renowned carnival celebrations. It also has many tourist attractions, including the Pelourinho complex, a UNESCO Heritage site. The 56,000-capacity Arena Fonte Nova was one of the venues that was delayed. A small part of the stadium's roof collapsed following heavy rains less than three weeks before the tournament.
Recife, with its rivers, beaches and coral reefs, is nicknamed the Venice of Brazil. It will host matches at the 44,000-capacity Arena Pernambuco, which also was delayed and had its first full test event less than a month before the Confederations Cup.
Salvador and Recife nearly didn't make it to the tournament because of construction delays, being approved just before the tournament's draw last year.
Fortaleza, Brazil's fifth-largest city, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the northeast, with 34 kilometers (21 miles) of beautiful beaches. The revamped Estadio Castelao was the first to be delivered, in December, and will hold 65,000 fans.
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