Prezados amigos do futebol,

2013 has been a momentous year. The preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ are reaching fever-pitch, with football action taking centre stage. Following the FIFA Confederations Cup last June, the Final Draw on 6 December 2013 was another highly demanding dress rehearsal for host nation Brazil on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The week spent in Costa do Sauipe in early December was filled with meetings, workshops and press conferences and the first get-together of the technical staff of the 32 teams and other football icons, but went off to everyone’s satisfaction.

It was a great advertisement for Brazil, particularly since both Costa do Sauipe and Bahia were perfect and cheerful hosts who embodied the FIFA World Cup slogan of “All in one rhythm” in exemplary fashion. Sauipe is where the story of the 20th FIFA World Cup really began. It marked a watershed moment for Planet Football, with the footballing agenda fully landing in Brazil as finishing touches are beginning to be put on tournament preparations and operations.

Above all, the Final Draw has spurred us on and given us the impetus and motivation to concentrate on completing the important tasks still remaining in the final preparation phase. The clock is ticking ever faster and the level of anticipation is rising for all of us. This anticipation can clearly be felt in Brazil and the countries that have qualified. Following the draw, the teams visited the various venues they will be playing in and inspected their selected team base camps. The feedback has been overall very positive.

None of us organisers – FIFA, the LOC, the federal government and the host cities – have the slightest cause to sit back and rest on any laurels. The finishing touches are crucial, and they need to be added in a number of areas. The work at the six non-FIFA Confederations Cup stadiums is in the final stages – with the exception of Sao Paulo, for the for the sad reason we are all aware of – and all the other five will have hosted the first of at least three test events within the first three months of 2014.

In addition, the temporary structures in all 12 stadiums need to be brought up to FIFA World Cup standards and sizes, to name but two of the many tasks still on the agenda. With all deadlines in mind, there will and have not been any compromises in terms of safety and security – a matter which is always top priority for workers, players and fans equally.

We now know where the teams will be based, although the final confirmation of where they will train during their stay in Brazil is only due on 31 January 2014. Fans from around the world are doing their utmost to be here to celebrate with us and we are excited to see how many Brazilians are eager to book their place in history. More than 80% of the more than 2.1 million applications received during the current sales so far have been from local fans. There is still an opportunity for all fans to apply on FIFA's ticketing website until the 30 January 2014 (12:00 CET). All applications are treated equally from the first to the last minute of the sales phase.

While we all keep focused on the preparations, it is also time to recharge batteries over the holiday season. 2014 will be an intense but interesting year, particular the first six months which culminate in the highlight of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final tournament in June and July. I really look forward to the moment football kicks-off on 12 June 2014 in Sao Paulo. The results of the line-up and draw promise great footballing action across the 64 matches.

Now I’d like to wish all of you a pleasant, peaceful festive season and a good start to 2014. I will be back in Brazil on 20 January 2014 to visit Sao Paulo, Manaus, Cuiaba and Rio, where we will then launch 19 additional Football for Hope Projects that FIFA will be supporting in Brazil.

Até logo,

Jérôme Valcke