— FIFA President Sepp Blatter predicted Tuesday that the World Cup will be "a great event" for Brazil which can unite the world. But he didn't mention the country's difficulties preparing for the tournament, the protests over the $11 billion the government has spent to host the World Cup nor any of the controversies swirling around his organization, the governing body for soccer worldwide.
"What is uniting us today and tomorrow and in the next month is the love of this beautiful game," Blatter said in opening the annual FIFA Congress. "They [fans] want to be here, they want to live this fiesta."
The comments came hours after European officials urged Blatter not to seek reelection to FIFA's top post. UEFA board members told Blatter that before leaving office next year he should take responsibility for the scandals and negative headlines that have rocked his administration.
In the last few days World Cup sponsors — including Sony, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa and Anheuser-Busch — have expressed concerns over allegations money and favors were offered to FIFA officials if they backed Qatar's bid to host the 2022 tournament. The companies' support is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to FIFA.
In response Blatter charged the Sunday Times of London, which first reported the bribery claims, with racism and said there was a "plot to destroy FIFA."
Despite Tuesday's pleas, Blatter, 78, is expected to seek support from FIFA's 209 member countries to run for reelection as president in May.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, sidelined by a sore left thigh and tendinosis in his left knee, played for the first time since last month's Champions League final when he went 65 minutes and recorded an assist in his country's final World Cup warmup, a 5-1 win over Ireland on Tuesday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
With Ronaldo out Portugal, ranked fourth in the world, played Greece to a scoreless tie and needed a goal in stoppage time to beat Mexico, 1-0. With him, Portugal scored twice in the first 20 minutes and had a 3-0 at halftime.
Portugal was scheduled to leave the U.S. on Wednesday for Brazil, where it will prepare for Monday's World Cup opener against Germany.
Nephew of Brazil coach killed
The 48-year-old nephew of Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has been killed in a car accident just two days before the team's World Cup opener. Police in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul said Tarcisio Joao Schneider, the son of one of Scolari's sisters, died in a crash Tuesday morning.
The Brazilian soccer federation confirmed the information but didn't immediately say whether Scolari would leave the team's training camp outside Rio de Janeiro to return home. Brazil kicks off the tournament Thursday when it plays Croatia in Sao Paulo.