England's Rio friendly match against Brazil in doubt amid fears over stadium roof

World Cup warm-up game for Hodgson’s team in Brazil at risk due to problems with only two viable venues

Rio de Janeiro

There are growing concerns surrounding the viability of England’s prestigious friendly against Brazil going ahead in Rio de Janeiro this summer after the city’s Olympic Stadium was closed indefinitely amid fears the roof could collapse.

England are due to play Brazil in the refurbished Maracana Stadium in Rio on 2 June but it is still undergoing major building work and is unlikely to meet its 27 April completion deadline. Reports in Rio suggest it will not be finished until 25 May – just days before England are scheduled to play in front of 77,000 fans. The Olympic Stadium, which was built in 2007, would have offered an ideal fall-back if the Maracana is not ready but the Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, ordered its immediate closure because of structural problems with the roof.

Fifa is due to take over the Maracana on 27 May for this summer’s Confederations Cup, interrupting England’s preparations for the friendly. The April deadline was supposed to allow time to stage a test event before England arrive and any delay into May will raise questions over whether an adequate test can be conducted. If completion is delayed the England game may have to be used as one of the test events in front of a reduced capacity crowd.

The Football Association has an agreement with the Brazilian football federation to play the match in Rio – the venue was never specified – and would be reluctant to see a switch to another city, such as Sao Paulo.

The match forms part of the celebrations to mark the FA’s 150th anniversary but more importantly provides Roy Hodgson and his side with a chance to try out the accommodation and training centre earmarked for their use if qualification for next year’s finals is safely negotiated.

Rio’s other major stadium is Estadio Sao Januario, the ageing home of Vasco da Gama. But that has a capacity of only 25,000 and is rarely used to stage major fixtures – it is unlikely that it would be able to host an international match. Vasco have played most of their big games, including the Rio derbies, at the Maracana and then the Olympic Stadium, which has also been used by Botafogo as their home ground.

The Maracana’s £377m upgrade – the budget has risen dramatically as the delays have lengthened – was supposed to be finished before Christmas but has fallen further and further behind schedule. A fall-back date in February was also missed.

Just two weeks ago, ministers in Rio insisted it would meet the 27 April deadline. Any visitor to the stadium would have found that an optimistic target and within days reports emerged suggesting that late May was the probable completion date. Work is now under way on the site 20 hours a day. The pitch is already in place – the turf was laid two weeks ago.

The project has been dogged by industrial disputes and disagreements between city, state and federal authorities over who would foot the bill. Even the Brazilian weather has hindered progress – heavy rain last month delayed work and prevented a Fifa inspection.

Fifa has previously expressed concern at the slow pace of building work at a number of the stadiums that will host games in the Confederations Cup. The final is scheduled for the Maracana on 30 June, while two group games, Italy versus Mexico and Spain against Tahiti, will also be staged there.

The Olympic Stadium was originally built for the 2007 Pan American Games and has since been used largely for football. It is due to hold the athletics events at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Today the authorities admitted they have been aware of a potential problem with the roof ever since the stadium was built. Mayor Paes said: “I asked them if these problems posed a threat to fans and the answer was ‘Yes’, depending on circumstances such as wind velocity and temperature.

“The stadium will stay closed for an undetermined period. If they give me a solution that will last a month, then it will stay closed for a month; if it takes a year, it will stay closed for a year. I will wait until a definitive solution if presented. We can’t play with something like this.”

Organisers of the Rio Games insist the problem will be solved in ample time for 2016.

Grounds for concern: Rio’s stadiums

* Estadio do Maracana

Opened 1950

Capacity 78,838 [rising to 85,000].

Currently being renovated at a cost of £377m and will host next year’s World Cup final. Previously staged Frank Sinatra concert.

* Estadio Olimpico do Rio

Opened 2007

Capacity 46,931 [increasing to 60,000 for 2016 Olympics]

Has hosted concerts by Paul McCartney and Justin Bieber. Renovations will cost £125m.

* Estadio Sao Januario

Opened 1927

Capacity 24,584.

Owned by football club Vasco da Gama and still the biggest privately owned stadium in the city. The run-down venue has long been in need of an upgrade.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor