100 days to go – and still South Africa has questions to answer

700,000 tickets are unsold, travel costs are rising fast, and some venues are cause for concern. Nick Harris on a troubled World Cup countdown
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The Independent Online

With 100 days to go to the World Cup, are all the venues finished and ready for action?

No. Nine of the 10 are open and essentially ready but there is a problem at the new £100m, 43,500-seat Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. It is due to stage four group matches, starting with Honduras v Chile on 16 June, then Italy v New Zealand (20 June), Australia v Serbia (23 June) and North Korea v Ivory Coast (25 June).

But two attempts to grow grass have failed, and the venue, which failed a Fifa inspection in December, has been described as an "arid dustbowl". The stadium manager says "it should only take two weeks" to find a solution despite local reports suggesting an alternative venue might be needed.

What about the venues where England will play?

The Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg (v USA, 12 June) was upgraded for last year's Confederations Cup; the new Cape Town Stadium (v Algeria, 18 June) staged its first game in January and is ready; and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth (v Slovenia, 23 June) has been in action for a year.

What about England's training base?

The FA has now confirmed England will stay at the Royal Bafokeng Campus at Phokeng near Rustenburg. Despite ongoing building works and concerns over the the training pitches, Fabio Capello said: "I'm really happy. We visited four places and this was the best." Rustenburg will also be South Korea's training base.

Has every team finalised their plans?

Yes, but South Africa have only just done so, after local headlines claimed: "Homeless in their own country". They were due to stay at a complex in the Western Cape but have had to switch after it was deemed "run-down" by the head of the South African FA. Now they will stay at a hotel in northern Johannesburg and train at a nearby school.

The defending champions Italy will be based at Leriba Lodge outside Pretoria, near to the USA at the Irene Country Lodge. Pretoria will also be the base for Germany, Argentina, Slovakia, North Korea, New Zealand and Ghana. The Netherlands and Brazil are among nations based in Jo'burg. France will stay in Knysna on the coastal "Garden Route", as will Denmark and Japan. All the African teams bar the hosts are staying in Durban, as are Greece. The favourites, Spain, are staying in the small "academic" town (35 universities, schools and colleges) of Potchefstroom. Bless you.

What about tickets?

Danny Jordaan, the head of the organising committee, says that 2.2m of the 2.9m tickets have been sold, and the rest will go between now and the tournament starting. The fourth sales phase (of five) is under way, until 7 April. There are no England tickets left for general sale, aside from as part of (expensive) official packages

What about tickets on the black market?

The message from Fifa, as usual, is "don't go there", and the same warning comes from the police, who have warned that counterfeits are being offered via websites such as eBay and Gumtree. Tickets will not be printed until a few weeks before the tournament starts and must be collected in person within South Africa. Fifa says: "Don't buy from non-official sources."

Is it still possible to book cheap flights and hotels?

They're getting more expensive by the day. Four official UK travel suppliers – Thomson Sport, Thomas Cook, BAC and Keith Prowse – have package deals with match tickets, typically £2,600- to £11,000-a-head depending on the number of games.

Bumps in the road to Johannesburg

Rustenburg: England Expects

Half of the 72 rooms have been completed at England’s base, the Royal Bafokeng sports campus, only two of the 11 pitches are in playable condition and there are drainage problems. Fabio Capello, however, has insisted the base will be fine by June.

Johannesburg: Homeless Hosts

South Africa’s original training base, the Esselen Park School of Excellence was badly run down and would have cost £1.5m to put right in time for the finals. They are now going to use Sandown High School instead. South African FA chief executive Lesley Sedibe has called the affair ‘an embarrassment’.

Nelspruit: The 'Dustbowl' Stadium

Two attempts to grow grass have failed at the £100m Mbombela Stadium. Reports in Australia, who play Serbia in their final group game there, have highlighted the current condition of the pitch, calling it a ‘dustbowl’.

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