Maracana Stadium may not be ready for England friendly in Brazil
Stadium is being revamped ahead of World Cup
Sam Wallace is Football Correspondent for The Independent.
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Thursday 14 March 2013
Brazilian authorities face a race against time to complete the rebuilding of the Maracana if the iconic stadium is to be ready to host the friendly with England in June.
The Rio de Janeiro stadium is due to host the game as part of the celebrations surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Football Association after the two sides played at Wembley on 6 February to kick off a year of events organised by the English governing body.
The state of Rio de Janeiro, responsible for the £377m upgrade, insists it will be renovated by 27 April, a self-imposed deadline that has crept backwards in recent months as the project has been plagued by problems.
The grass was laid on the pitch on Monday but much construction work remains to be done in and around the stadium. The situation has been further complicated by a funding row between the state government and the federal authorities.
The Maracana, which held the 1950 World Cup final and will again stage the final next year, is due to host matches in the Confederations Cup in June and Fifa has had concerns over the pace of the rebuilding project.
A Fifa inspection last week had to be cancelled because of flooding – heavy rain is common in Rio at this time of year and can delay building work – but the city's authorities have promised the world governing body that the ground will be completed in time to stage three test events ahead of the Confederations Cup.
"It will be ready," insisted Andre Lazarmi, the state secretary of sport and leisure. "It presented a lot of challenges – it is a 1950s stadium. It is harder to rebuild than build a new stadium. What we can assure is it will be prepared for the Confederations Cup and will meet the 27 April deadline."
Roy Hodgson has delayed telling the England players until today if they are in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro this month, just hours before he makes his announcement public. The key decision concerns Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender who has been a high-profile absentee since Hodgson took over the team last year.
Much will depend on whether Chris Smalling, a Hodgson favourite, came through 90 minutes for United's Under-21s on Monday. He already has Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott available, who are near certainties for the squad, and Michael Dawson, Ryan Shawcross and Steven Caulker are also fit. Hodgson's staff have spoken to Newcastle about Steven Taylor.
There are others pushing for inclusion such as the Liverpool winger Stewart Downing, who has not been in a Hodgson squad since he was included for Euro 2012. Ben Foster will also come back into the reckoning after his international sabbatical.
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