San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Group D

FIFA President Blatter assures rivals that Uruguay will play in the World Cup

FIFA President Joseph Blatter probably figured he’d be hearing a question from the press about Uruguay’s World Cup status during his visit to Costa Rica on Thursday. When the time came to make the address, Blatter turned toward the president of the Costa Rican Football Federation, and smirked.

“Do you all think that Uruguay will be punished?” Blatter asked the media Thursday afternoon. “No Uruguay will play in the World Cup, and will be in your group.”

Speculation arose earlier this week that the Uruguayan squad — who Costa Rica plays in its World Cup opener on June 14 — could be disqualified from the tournament due to a dispute between Uruguay’s president and the Uruguayan Football Association about fan violence and stadium security. On Monday,  the entire board of the football association resigned. Then Uruguayan newspapers began publishing stories about how President José Mujica’s squabbling with the board could be seen as government “interference with football affairs,” an offense that could lead to sanctions from FIFA.

But Blatter quashed the possibility (hope?) that the 2010 semifinalists would be taken out of Group D — a fierce group that also includes European powerhouses England and Italy in addition to Costa Rica and Uruguay. He said that in the morning FIFA received a report that the government was adopting measures to guarantee security in the stadiums.

“The problem of Uruguayan football is resolved,” Blatter said.

Blatter is in Costa Rica for the Under-17 Women’s World Cup final Friday. During a press conference at the Hotel Real InterContinental in Escazú, Blatter touched on a range of FIFA-related topics. He jested about Costa Rica’s “easy” World Cup group that features three former World Cup champions. He pledged that Brazil 2014 will be a grand tournament despite setbacks regarding stadium construction.

The FIFA president chose not to comment on the blizzard game between Costa Rica and the United States that took place last year, and still appears to strike a nerve with Costa Rica supporters. He said the issue is in the past, and both teams should be pleased about qualifying for Brazil 2014. Blatter also declared his satisfaction with Costa Rica’s hosting duties during this current World Cup.

“Costa Rica showed the quality that makes up women’s football,” Blatter said. “As for hospitality, it was exemplary. The 15 other teams that participated depart receiving exceptional treatment in Costa Rica.”

Japan and Spain will meet in the Under-17 Women’s World Cup final on at 5 p.m. Friday in the National Stadium.

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