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Keir RadnedgeTwo steps forward, one step back: that is the sorry tale of Brazil’s World Cup stadia. Surely no country has been stumbling beyond the venues deadline so late in the day.

Not even Mexico in 1986, which was a short-notice choice three years out after Colombia’s withdrawal; and not even South Africa in 2010 whose entire staging was something of a minor miracle considering work needed and the power of resources ultimately thrown at it.

Early this year one of FIFA’s media officers grumbled to this writer that an article about stadia preparations in World Soccer magazine – concerning, in particular, Manaus – was badly off-beam and should not have been published.

The plain truth is that the original article was, if anything, much too optimistic about progress in Manaus.

This had always been the stadium most badly off schedule. Manaus has been denied that status only recently and in tragic circumstances after the double-deaths incident at Sao Paulo (A crane collapse took a part of the stand with it and set the Itaquero delivery back to mid-April).

On the eve of the draw Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and deputy Luis Fernandes, talking over the greater caution of FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, insisted airily that Manaus (and others) would be “almost ready” by the notional, laughable deadline of December 31.

Rebelo indicated that only the holiday absence from duty of President Dilma Rousseff would delay the formal opening.

But then, Rebelo has been whistling ever more loudly in the wind the longer the stadia stadia has dragged on. One major international agency turned down the offer of an one-on-one interview with Rebelo in the certainty that it would hear nothing more than platitudes.

The already-problematic timescale for Manaus has now been cast into further uncertainty after a Brazilian court, last weekend, ordered a partial stop to construction work.

This followed the death of a 22-year-old labourer, Marcleudo de Melo Ferreira, who fell 35ft from the stadium’s roof. It appears he was allowed to work up there without a safety harness.

The public prosecutor’s office sought a court order that all work “in all areas involving altitude” be halted pending investigations into safety precautions and procedures.

Ferreira was the fifth construction worker to die in stadiums being built to host the World Cup in 12 cities and the first of two deaths in Manaus on Saturday. A worker in a nearby conference centre, Jose Antonio da Silva Nascimento, died later the same day, apparently of a heart attack.

Manaus will host four games, including the England v Italy clash and other clashes involving the United States and Portugal.

Preparations for Brazil 2014 have been plagued by delays not only in the stadia sector but in terms of airport redevelopment and general infrastructure upgrades including hotels and roads.

No wonder the International Olympic Committee has suddenly woken up to the need to start worrying about preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said the stadia work delays are “so small we can close our eyes” . . . but no-one is certain when the football dare open them and gaze upon reality.

By Keir Radnedge

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