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May, 28, 2016

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Excitement builds in Brazil as World Cup nears

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazil on Tuesday marked 100 days to the World Cup finals with President Dilma Rousseff announcing major public buildings in the host cities would be bathed at night in the national colors, green and yellow, and in the 12 stadia while FIFA looked forward to an "exceptional" event.

World football body FIFA has criticized the country for the slow pace of preparations throughout after the giant nation was awarded the chance to host back in 2007 and by Tuesday, five of the venues had still to be officially inaugurated.

But Rousseff said Tuesday was a special moment and Brazil was in the final furlong to stage the competition for the first time since 1950.

"Today is a very special date for all Brazilians. There are 100 days to go to the Cup and the country is in the final furlong with preparations for the grand fiesta," Rousseff said on her Twitter feed.

"Today, the host cities will be lit up green and yellow to remind people that the moment everyone is waiting for is on its way," she tweeted.

"Brazilians are ready to show they know how to receive tourists and contribute to making this the Cup of Cups."

Rousseff's fellow leftist predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was in charge when the country won the right to host the event for the first time since 1950.

Although FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said late last month the country would now have to "break the speed limit" to ensure it is totally ready to welcome three million domestic tourists and some 600,000 foreign visitors, FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he is sure the event will prove "exceptional."

He told "It will be, in 100 days, an exceptionally good start for an exceptional competition. The Brazilian spirit of the game and the Brazilian ability to play football makes this World Cup very, very special. I'm sure it will be a great, great success"

Brazil lost the final in 1950 in the Maracana Stadium, which will host this year's trophy match in July 13, having to wait a further eight years to start their record collection of five wins in Sweden.

Brazilians, currently enjoying the pleasures of the week-long Carnival festivities, have in recent months protested at the estimated US$11 billion cost of staging the tournament, complaining the cash would have been better spent on poor infrastructure and creaking public facilities.

Although support for protests, which have been small but on occasion violent, has been slipping, a Datafolha opinion poll last week showed support for staging the World Cup had also fallen to a low of 52 percent from 79 percent in 2008, just after the country won the right to stage the tournament.

The poll put opposition to the Cup at 38 percent from an initial 10 percent.

The build-up has been plagued by construction delays which saw the city of Curitiba almost axed from the venue list but saved in February after FIFA accepted it was getting back on track.

There also remains work to do at the Sao Paulo stadium that will host the June 12 opening after a crane fell on the stands in a November accident which killed two workers. There have been three fatal accidents in Manaus — where England will take on Italy in their group opener and due to be inaugurated Sunday — and one in Brasilia.

Brazil initially indicated all 12 stadiums would be ready by the end of last year, but only half — already used at last year's Confederations Cup, made the dealine.

Sao Paulo is slated to host the June 12 opener between Brazil and Croatia but is not expected to be ready until May 15 while Cuiaba and Curitiba also still have to put the finishing touches.

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The Bandeiras monument is lit in the colors of the Brazilian national flag to commemorate one hundred days until the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Tuesday, March 4. (AFP)

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