NATIONAL coach Ange Postecoglou has brushed off speculation that one of the venues for Australia’s World Cup games could be axed, declaring he has more important things to worry about in the lead-up to the finals in Brazil in June.
The Socceroos, along with World Cup champion Spain and six other countries, face the possibility of their preparations being thrown into disarray amid unconfirmed reports FIFA could strip the city of its right to host matches.
It has been suggested the stadium in Curitiba, which is being renovated, is behind schedule and unlikely to be completed in time. A photograph taken late last month showed there had been no turf laid on the pitch while some of the stands looked bare of corporate and media facilities.
In a situation that smacks of political opportunism, it is also believed the city claims it has no more money to fund further improvements.
Australia is due to play Spain at the venue on June 23, while another three games have also been scheduled there.
FIFA is expected to make an announcement today with secretary-general Jerome Valcke playing down the concerns on Twitter.
“As announced many times, decision on Curitiba will only happen on 18 Feb. Rest pure speculation by people who just want to create rumours,” he tweeted yesterday.
An FFA spokesman suggested it was too far gone for FIFA to change the venue as it would cause huge problems in terms of ticketing, hotel accommodation and flights not just for the eight teams that have to play there but for fans as well.
Postecoglou was unconcerned when he attended yesterday’s unveiling of the Socceroos’ official World Cup strip for Brazil.
“I’ve heard nothing,” he said. “I’m off to Brazil tomorrow to check some training bases and stuff like that, but I won’t be looking at the venue.
“As far as we know, everything is going ahead and we will be there. When I was there in December the stadium was almost complete, so we’d be surprised if they are still having issues.” Postecoglou said his main thoughts surrounded selection of the 23-man squad and getting the preparation and pre-Cup friendlies sorted.
“We will play in the car park if we have to,” he said. “I’ll leave that stuff (about Curitiba) to other people to sort out.”
Of more concern for Postecoglou, who arrived back last week after a month in Europe scouting players, is the preparation for the friendly against Ecuador in London next month.
Significantly, he has promised “a bit of a new-look” side for the game. The likes of Brad Smith (Liverpool), Bailey Wright (Preston), Massimo Luongo (Swindon), Chris Herd (Aston Villa), Shane Lowry (Millwall), Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Jackson Irvine (Kilmarnock) and Ryan Williams (Oxford United) could all be in contention.
“It’s not about where the players come from,” Postecoglou said when asked if he would include a number of A-League players. “It will be a bit of a new look, some new faces and some people getting an opportunity whether they are from the A-League or overseas.
“Definitely the more I have thought about it, this game gives me the chance to try a few things … and I’ll do that.
“I think it is the last chance for experimenting. Beyond that Ecuador game there is nothing left. I’ve got to announce pretty much a squad of 30 by the beginning of the camp in May.
“I have to go with my gut instinct so there are a few I want to look at.”
Postecoglou was adamant that any player who missed out on the Ecuador game would still be in the running for a spot in Brazil.
“If a player misses it does not mean he will be ruled out,” he said. “There are a couple of players I know really well that I might not select, but I am not putting a line through them.”
Postecoglou could not add to the situation regarding captain Lucas Neill, who is still without a club.
“No, I haven’t spoken to him or any other players,” he said.
“I am trying to stick to what I have said all along, that players playing regularly and playing decent football … it is important I give them an opportunity.”