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Blatter prays to God over April date for Sao Paulo stadium

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference ahead of the 2014 World Cup draw at the Costa do Sauipe resort in Sao Joao da Ma
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a news conference ahead of the 2014 World Cup draw at the Costa do Sauipe resort in Sao Joao da Ma

By Andrew Downie

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) - The stadium that will host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup will not be ready until April 14 or 15, less than two months before the tournament kicks off, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Thursday.

The announcement came a day after the Brazilian government said the stadium would be ready in February.

The Itaquera Arena in Sao Paulo was originally supposed to be ready this month but an accident last week set the timetable back. Two workers were killed after a crane collapsed into a stand.

Blatter did not give details but appealed to higher powers in the hope the stadium will be completed.

"We believe it is a question of trust and that it will be done," he told reporters.

"For the time being there is no Plan B and what FIFA can do now is ask God, Allah, whoever, that no more accidents shall arise in connection with the World Cup. That is all we can do and we hope the reconstruction can start as soon as possible."

Host nation Brazil will open the tournament at the stadium on June 12. Their opponents in the prestigious match will be known on Friday when the draw is made for the 32-team tournament.

The setback is the latest in a string of delays involving stadiums and transportation.

At least five cities have scaled back or abandoned plans to build metros, bus lanes or trams in time for the World Cup, which will take place in 12 cities next June and July.

Only two of six stadiums built for June's Confederations Cup were delivered on time.

The other six for the World Cup were scheduled to be handed over this month but at least half will be late.

Arenas in Cuiaba and Curitiba will be delivered by mid-February, officials said earlier this week, while downplaying the delays.

"At every single wedding I've been to, the bride was always late," said Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo. "The wedding always went ahead despite this. It is possible that one or two are delayed, but the most important thing is that they'll all be delivered."

(Editing by Mark Meadows; mark.meadows@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging:; mark.meadows.reuters.com@reuters.net; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)

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