Sao Paulo to host 2014 World Cup opening match

October 23, 2011 - 12:44 AM

ZURICH (AP) — Sao Paulo will host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup and Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium will stage the final, FIFA announced Thursday.

The host nation will kick off the tournament on June 12 at a 65,000-seat arena being built in the Itaquera neighborhood. The decision ended months of speculation over whether Brazil's biggest city would host the match after concerns about construction delays at the airport.

All 12 cities will host at least four of the 64 matches, with the final on July 13 at Maracana stadium.

Matches will start at 1 p.m., with some kicking off as late as 10 p.m. Five-time champion Brazil can only play in the Maracana stadium if it reaches the final.

All matches in the knockout rounds will kick off no later than 5 p.m.

In an apparent reversal, FIFA said teams will travel across the vast country, as they did at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Officials had previously suggested they would learn from logistical issues in South Africa by basing four-team groups in one of four clusters to minimize the strain of moving players, fans and officials.

"You can have the best teams, the seeded teams, in all the host cities," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.

Valcke launched the schedule plan Thursday with Ricardo Teixeira, the organizing committee chairman. Teixeira is under investigation at home over alleged kickbacks paid by FIFA's former marketing agency.

Also, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff has clashed with FIFA over delays in passing World Cup laws favorable to FIFA and its sponsors.