The 2014 World Cup has had its issues. From early on in the organisational process there has been mudslinging and dispute over many aspects of the tournament's planning.
From stadium construction to ticket prices and from infrastructure to the availability of beer in seated areas, FIFA and the local organising committee have found plenty of areas in which to provoke internal and external conflict.
With the tournament now so close, though, those differences have seemingly been set aside for the time being, as all parties focus on ensuring that all deadlines are met in time for Brazil's global showcase.
We are now able to see a much clearer picture of how the country's preparations are shaping up in several important areas.
Last month, I looked at the progress of building work on the stadia to be used at the World Cup. Since then, we have seen building work reach completion at both the Castelão, in Forteleza (BBC), and the Mineirão, in Belo Horizonte (Goal.com).
The Castelão will open on Jan. 27, as Fortaleza, Ceará, Bahia and Sport compete in a double-header as part of the newly restored Copa Nordeste competition. (Portal 2014) The Mineirão will then host Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro in a clash of Minas Gerais titans on Feb. 3 as it opens to the public for the first time (UOL).
Elsewhere, Brazil have confirmed that the centrepiece of their World Cup plans, the iconic Maracanã, will open on Jun. 2 this year. The stadium will host a friendly international between the Seleção and England, ahead of use in the Confederations Cup.
FIFA estimate that approximately 3.3 million tickets for the World Cup will go on public sale shortly after the Confederations Cup, in the third quarter of 2013.
Some tickets will be distributed via national associations to their official supporters groups, while the remainder of the public allocation will all be sold direct to the consumer via FIFA.com. The governing body insist that a minimum of 75% of tickets will be sold to the general public.
After lengthy discussions with the Brazilian organisers, the World Cup will offer half-price tickets to the over-65s, as well as handing out free tickets to both the country's indigenous and poor populations.
General ticket prices have yet to be divulged.
As always, FIFA insist all further information will be made available via their website (FIFA.com).
The final draw for the competition will be held in Bahia on Dec. 6, 2013, with qualifying campaigns still ongoing as teams pursue a place among the competition's final 32 sides.
Details of the tournament's scheduling have also been revealed, with the tournament to kick off on Jun. 12, 2014 and will run until Jul. 13.
All games will be played between 13.00 and 21.00 local time, with various factors to be taken into consideration. The final will be held at 16.00 local time, which will allow the European audience to watch the game during primetime television slots (FIFA.com).
Outside the grounds, of course, local police will take control for security arrangements—with some guidance from FIFA-employed experts. However, after recent incidents at the Copa Sudamericana final between São Paulo and Tigre, in-stadium arrangements have been questioned. (Daily Mail)
However, unlike in that fixture, in-stadium security at the finals will be solely organised by FIFA and the local organisers—even if it will still require the manpower of the Brazilian police and army.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has expressed his concerns following the incident, in which the São Paulo-employed security team reportedly beat the visiting Argentine players. However, the organisation in 2014 should be far more professional in structure. (Independent)
Are you convinced by Brazil's World Cup preparations?
Such incidents will not be repeated, or tolerated.
Expert security information website Info4Security.com recently outlined Brazil's planning for the event, including a US $900 million investment in security forces—far more than the $150 million spent by South Africa in 2010, for example.
All signs indicate that the local organising committee have thought sensibly about arrangements both inside and outside of the competition's stadia.
The tournament, as I'm sure we all hope, should be a safe and enjoyable event for all attending.