The Maracana hosts Brazil v England on Sunday (Getty)

(WFI) Despite safety fears over the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, England’s friendly with Brazil on Sunday goes ahead.

The prestigious match and the biggest test of the venue before the Confederations Cup kicks off in two weeks was put in doubt last night when a court suspended the game because of safety issues.

According to a BBC report, Rio’s state prosecutors claim there are dangerous materials in and around the venue, including rubble and pieces of metal. “The stadium is not yet safe to hold a full house of paying public,” said the BBC’s Rio-based South American football expert Tim Vickery.

But the Rio de Janeiro state government later issued a statement saying the stadium complied with safety guidelines and was fit to stage the match in front of over 70,000 fans.

Built for the 1950 World Cup, the Maracana has undergone an extensive renovation costing over $500 million over the past few years. But labour disputes and construction delays have dogged the project. Some seats were only installed in the week before the April 27 test event, a friendly between two teams of Brazilian greats.

FIFA will be alarmed at the latest concerns around the Maracana project. It seems likely the city’s World Cup organisers will complete the venue with just days to spare before the Confederations Cup opens on June 15.

Philip de Wit, a freelance sport journalist based in Rio, writes: “Just two weeks before the start of the Confederations Cup in Brazil, doubts are still in the air about the preparedness of the host country for the tournament.

“This Sunday’s friendly match between Brazil and England will be a serious test for the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.”

FIFA hope stadium operations will be glitch-free when the venue hosts Mexico v Italy on June 16.

This week Leonardo Maciel, the secretary of major events for Rio, tried to assure sceptical Brazilian media that the Maracana only needs some final touches to get ready for Sunday’s big game.

But De Wit writes “images of the surroundings show a location where construction seems to be still in full progress, with the coming and going of trucks, and fences on neighbouring streets.”

Long Queues for Confeds Cup Tickets

Confederations Cup sales suffered a big delay in Rio and other five host cities. On Wednesday, fans could pick up their reserved tickets at venue ticket centres.

Long queues of fans were seen in Rio waiting

Maracana hosts Mexico v Italy on June 16 (Getty)

to get hold of their tickets in different locations around the city and at the international airport Galeão. A breakdown of the electronic sales system was said to have caused the delay.

In the national capital Brasilia, football fans who wanted to get their tickets for the opening game on June 15, Brazil v Japan, were told to pick up their tickets on the 16th – the day after the match!

More enormous queues were seen in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais. In this city of 2.5 million inhabitants, FIFA only had one outlet available for fans to collect their tickets.

Roof Concerns in Salvador

More worrying news for FIFA in advance of the Confeds Cup came from the northern city of Salvador where the Arena Fonte Nova stadium will stage three Confeds Cup matches. Heavy rains caused severe damage to the roof of the stadium. It suffered a partial collapse, after a build-up of rainwater on the roof.

The stadium was inaugurated only last month in the presence of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and the governor of the state Bahia, Jacques Wagner.

José Luis Góes, director of Fonte Nova Negócios, which built the stadium, said the damage was caused by human error and didn’t have anything to do with the construction of the stadium. The tarp that covers the top of the roof was not laid out properly, according to Góes.
 
Testing Time in Brasilia

The first test of the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, the stadium in Brasilia, was a match between Flamengo and Santos last weekend.

There were lots of complaints from football fans. Tickets and chair numbers weren’t corresponding, some angry Flamengo fans told O Globo, Rio de Janeiro’s daily newspaper.

Before the match it took more than three hours for fans to enter the stadium.

At some point, security guards decided to reduce security, and stopped checking people’s tickets. It was only then that fans were able to go in more quickly.

Nevertheless, lots of supporters missed the start of the match. “This is what the test serves for,” said Thiago Paz, LOC manager of stadium operations.

By Philip de Wit in Rio de Janeiro

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