SAO PAULO - Embarrassed about his country's inability to complete the promised infrastructure ahead of next month's World Cup, Brazil great Ronaldo believes the hosts will get it right on the pitch and win the tournament for a record sixth time.
Brazil will stage the World Cup in June and July for the first time since 1950 and are favourites to lift the trophy at the Maracana stadium on July 13.
The hosts have struggled to build stadiums on time and many of the promised infrastructure projects such as airports, bus lanes, and metro lines have been either cancelled or scaled down.
Ronaldo, who as a member of the Local Organising Committee is one of the most visible backers of soccer's world governing body FIFA and the Brazilian government, said Brazil has always faced problems of "corruption, embezzlement, overcharging" and he lamented the late delivery of stadiums, three of which are still not ready.
"In 2007 when they decided that the World Cup would be in Brazil, President Lula signed everything and agreed to everything and then they get here and there's this bureaucracy, total confusion and lateness," Ronaldo told Reuters in an interview on Friday at his office in Sao Paulo.
"It's a shame. I am embarrassed, this is my country and I love it and we shouldn't be transmitting this image abroad," he added.
"But we mustn't forget that Brazil wasn't perfect before the World Cup. It was the same or worse."
The former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan striker is betting on Brazil to win the competition, with Germany his second favourites, followed closely by Argentina and Spain.
Brazil are on a rich run of form and have won 13 of their last 14 encounters, including the five games that won them the Confederations Cup last year.
However, no side has ever won the World Cup a year after lifting the Confederations trophy and there is also the little matter of pressure. Local fans are desperate for a home win and yet only six players in Luiz Felipe Scolari's 23-man squad have been to a World Cup before.
Ronaldo, 37, said the players were experienced enough for the big occasion and will be well prepared by Scolari - the man who led Brazil to their last title triumph in 2002, with the help of two goals from Ronaldo in the final.
The first match against Croatia on June 12 could set the tone for the tournament, he said.
"The first game in the World Cup, in Brazil, the first match for many players, it is going to be very important and it could determine the team's future," he said.
"We see players that are 20 years old who've played with big clubs or with the national team for a year or two so I don't think the lack of experience will determine the final result.
"It could be important at some moments of the match but I don't think it will determine the result."
Ronaldo also dismissed concerns that South American teams will cope better with the tropical climes and noted that while humidity could be high in coastal and jungle cities, temperatures in some venues could drop to almost freezing in the southern hemisphere's winter.
"In Europe they play in higher temperatures than here," Ronaldo said. "The games that could be controversial, for example 1 pm kick offs in Manaus, have been moved.
"I was in Manaus in the summer and at game time it could get to 35 degrees; in the winter it's 28, 29. That's a nice temperature to play in.
"In Brazil it's another controversy that makes no sense. No one is worried about the cold in Porto Alegre. Why does no one speak about that?"
"If I could have manipulated the draw, I'd have sent the Europeans to the north and the Africans to the south," he said with a laugh.
Ronaldo went to four World Cups and took home winners medals in 1994 and 2002. While he holds the record for most goals scored in World Cups, German Miroslav Klose could surpass him if he gets two goals this year.
Ronaldo joked he would spend only a little time willing Klose to fall short of his 15-goal tally, then acknowledged that if the big Lazio forward does equal or break his record then he will deserve all the plaudits that come his way.
"If he scores more goals than me then all credit to him," Ronaldo said. "So I am not going to be cheering against him. The record itself, it was made to be broken, someone will break it, I am under no illusions that it will remain forever." (Editing by Justin Palmer)