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Brazil leader hails WCup as a success Ukraine leader and Putin to attend final

BRASILIA, July 12, (AFP): Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the World Cup has been a success but acknowledged the host country’s football team needs reform after its humiliating elimination from the tournament. “We were able to do the Cup even though they said it would be chaos,” Rousseff told foreign correspondents at the presidential residence Friday night. “They said it would be horrific.” The buildup to the tournament was marked by delays in the construction of stadiums while many public infrastructure projects were scrapped. Last year, the warm-up Confederations Cup was overshadowed by massive and sometimes violent protests over the record $11 billion spent on the World Cup, with Brazilians demanding better schools, hospitals and public transport.

But the World Cup, which ends Sunday with the Argentina-Germany final, took place without major incidents or disruptions while protests drew small crowds. “It would have been serious for my government if we had lost off the pitch,” said Rousseff, 66, who is seeking re-election in October. Rousseff lamented the national team’s historic 7-1 defeat to Germany in Tuesday’s semi-final, ending Brazil’s dream of winning a record-extending sixth title in front of home fans. She said Brazil can “deal with a defeat and move forward”.

Rousseff called for a “renewal” of the national sport, as did Germany after it failed to get out of the group stage in the 2000 European Championship. The leftist leader said Brazil should try to retain more of its stars, who are exported to Europe and other foreign leagues. “We are the seventh or sixth economy in the world, and we don’t have the ability to have high-level athletes here?” she asked. Rousseff, who was insulted by sections of the crowd during the June 12 opening game, said she would present the World Cup trophy to Sunday’s winner at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
 
Rousseff, who has a strong lead in opinion polls ahead of the election, said the World Cup would have no effect on how people vote. “There’s a tradition in Brazil,” she said. “Football doesn’t mix with politics.”
Rousseff tweeted Saturday that the World Cup left a valuable, tangible legacy in a country which loved football. “Now we have the best stadiums. With renewal (of the game) we shall always have the best football in the world.” She added that budding stars needed opportunities starting from the grass roots level. “We must extend opportunities to allow our crack players to play in Brazil and give them the same conditions as (they would enjoy) on the international market.” But she insisted that “the government does not wish to and cannot run football — it should not be run by the state”. “We want to help to modernize it,” Rousseff said after Aecio Neves, one of her main opposition rivals in October’s presidential election, accused her of opportunism in joining the debate on reforming Brazilian football.
 
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s leader has accepted an invitation to attend Sunday’s World Cup final, with Russian President Vladimir Putin also among the spectators, amid a crisis between their countries, Brazilian officials said. “The president of Ukraine (Petro Poroshenko) confirmed Friday that he will go to the final,” a Brazilian presidency spokesman told AFP on Saturday. A foreign ministry spokesman said the Ukrainian and Russian leaders would attend a lunch offered by President Dilma Rousseff before the Germany-Argentina final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
 
Putin, whose country will host the 2018 World Cup, had confirmed his attendance weeks ago. He will also attend a summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers on Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also attending the game, will meet with Putin in Rio. In late June, the Russian and Ukrainian leaders held telephone talks with Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in a bid to secure a truce between Kiev and pro-Russia separatists in the east of Ukraine. On Saturday, panicked Ukrainians flooded highways and packed trains leading out of the main remaining rebel stronghold, fearing a reprisal assault by government forces after they lost 30 servicemen to defiant militants.

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