Friday Kickoff: Blatter allays fears over Maracana construction; Nigeria to arrive in Brazil on Sunday; and more

Friday Kickoff: Blatter allays fears over Maracana construction; Nigeria to arrive in Brazil on Sunday; and more

South American Soccer

Friday Kickoff: Blatter allays fears over Maracana construction; Nigeria to arrive in Brazil on Sunday; and more

MaracanaStadium1 (BBCSport)

By DAN KARELL

The top storyline it seems ahead of the Confederations Cup this summer has been the molasses-like pace that some of the World Cup stadiums in Brazil are being completed at.

The Maracana, Brazil’s jewel piece and stadium to host the opener and final, is still undergoing construction on parts of the stadium, though FIFA President Sepp Blatter eased fears that it wouldn’t be finished in time for the start of next summer’s World Cup.

“I have seen worse situations. Yes there is still work to be done, but it will get done,” Blatter said to BBC Sport. “I have been to many tournaments when the painters are still painting the stadiums an hour before the first match. It is not a surprise to me that people are still working. It just means that something has not been finished and they need to finish it.”

The World Cup begins in less than 365 days, with six of the 12 stadiums for the tournament being used this month for the Confederations Cup. Nearly all of the stadiums were either built from scratch or have undergone massive renovations.

Here are some more stories to get your Friday kicked off:

NIGERIA TO TRAVEL TO BRAZIL AFTER ENDING STRIKE

The Nigerian players and technical staff came to an agreement over unpaid bonuses by the Nigerian Football Federation, ending a self-imposed strike in a Windhoek, Namibia hotel.

Supposed to be in Brazil preparing for the Confederations Cup as Africa’s representative, the Super Eagles never left their hotel after a 1-1 draw against Namibia on Wednesday, striking over promised bonuses of reported $10,000 for each player. The originally promised money was cut down to $2,500 due to financial constraints, causing the players to refuse to leave the hotel when they heard the news.

Finally on Friday, Nigeria’s Minister of Sport Bolaji Abdullahi intervened on behalf of the federation and helped the two sides come to an agreement, ending the strike and putting the Nigeria National Team on course to arrive in Brazil on Sunday, just one day before they begin play against Tahiti in Belo Horizonte.

FREE-SPENDING MONACO STILL SEARCHING FOR MORE

One might think that after spending upwards of $180 million on transfer fees alone, AS Monaco would call it a day. One would probably be wrong.

According to reports out of France, Monaco is still interested in bringing in another forward to the club, with the Ligue 1 side eyeing Zenit St. Petersburg’s Hulk. The reports state that Hulk would cost Monaco around $60 million just for the transfer fee, and certainly he would earn a massive salary as well.

Since moving to Zenit last summer from Porto, Hulk has struggled to gel, scoring just seven times in 18 Russian Premier League matches. The 26-year-old Brazilian is currently with the National Team as they prepare to kick off the Confederations Cup on Saturday against Japan.

VALDES STAYING WITH BARCELONA TILL NEXT SUMMER

Though it looked like he was well on his way out, Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has decided to see out the rest of his contract at the club, which expires at the end of June 2014.

The Catalonian born and raised Valdes had been rumored for a move to AS Monaco or Arsenal for the last few months, but the 31-year-old shot stopper has put an end to those rumors according to reports out of Spain. Barcelona will lose Valdes at the end of the 2013-2014 season on a free transfer, making speculation that he would exit this summer so Barcelona could bring in some sort of transfer fee.

The Spain No. 2 behind Iker Casillas, who has made 12 appearances for his country, is currently in Brazil with the Spanish National Team as they close out preparations for the Confederations Cup. In his time at Barcelona, Valdes has featured for the Blaugrana no less than 465 times in all competitions. This past season, he started 44 times in goal in all competitions for the Barcelona club.

QUICK KICKS

Former Bolton boss Owen Coyle has been confirmed by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan as the Championship club’s next manager. (REPORT)

Celtic have completed the signing of towering forward Amido Balde from Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal on a four-year contract. (REPORT)

The French Football Federation and Ligue 1 released the fixtures for the upcoming season, which will see Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco facing each other for the first time on September 21. (REPORT)

Mano Menezes, who coached Brazil from 2010-2012, has been appointed the newest head coach at Flamengo. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Do you see the Maracana being finished in time? Think we’ve heard the last of stadium issues in Brazil? Do you think Hulk could go to Monaco?

Share your thoughts below.

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