RIO DE JANEIRO: Sunday’s friendly between Brazil and England at the rubble-strewn Maracana in Rio de Janeiro is back on after the latest twist in the farcically incompetent run-up to the 2014 World Cup.
Back in October 2007 Brazilwas gifted the finals on a plate. Five and half full years ago. The bid documentation was prepared by Jerome Valcke. The Frenchman was then on gardening leave from FIFA after the Visa/MasterCard storm.
Now he is not only its secretary-general but World Cup progress-chaser in chief.
Until the summer of 2010 FIFA took its eye off the Brazil ball becaue of its overwhelming preoccupation in ensuring that the finals in South Africa ‘worked’. Organisationally they did though the football was comparatively poor.
By the time FIFA and Valcke could focus on Brazil it was too late. As a scathing Valcke noted early last year: “Brazil needs a kick up the backside.”
Brazil has staggered over the finish line with its six stadia for next month’s Confederations Cup but even this has involved cutting corners as the Maracana mess has demonstrated to the world.
Maracana was not even finished when it was opened for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil: a Yugoslav player missed the kickoff in one match after gashing his head on a stray girder.
Then built for a crowd of 200,000, the formally-named Estadio Mario Filho has undergone a number of renovations. One was for the 2007 Panamerican Games and the latest has cost more than £320m.
Even so, days before the first test event on April 27 – a friendly featuring former Brazil players – seats were still being installed and pavements laid near the venue. Media reported uneven flooring with gaps and holes and flooding in the VIP area.
Elsewhere heavy rain has ripped a hole in the roof of the rebuilt stadium in Salvador while the Joao Havelange Stadium in Rio– which will host Olympic athletics in 2016 – has been closed indefinitely because of roof problems.
Yesterday Rio state prosecutors obtained a court order barring the staging of the Brazil-England game because of safety concerns over rubble around the stadium. This order has now been overturned by another court and the game will go ahead.
Brazil want victory to avenge the 2-1 defeat by England at Wembley in February in what was Luiz Felipe Scolari’s first match back in charge. Injury-weakened England– missing Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Kyle Walker, Daniel Sturridge among others – will want a performance, at the least, to erase memories of the failure to beat the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.
This will be England’s first game at the Maracana since 1984 when John Barnes scored his finest-ever goal.