By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Salvador, the capital city of Bahia, and its brand new Arena Fonte Nova will be heavily involved in FIFA activity over the next year. The rebuilt stadium will host three matches next month during the Confederations Cup before playing a big role next year, when no fewer than six games will be played in the Bahian city.
Next month some of the world’s biggest stars will be gracing the Fonte Nova turf. On June 20th African Cup of Nations champions Nigeria take on Copa America holders Uruguay. Despite slipping recently in World Cup qualifiers the Uruguayan national side remains one of the most potent attacking threats in international football.
A couple of days later, on June 22nd, comes arguably the most mouth-watering tie of the group stages. Hosts Brazil play Italy in a repeat of March’s friendly.
On that occasion the Seleção threw away a two-goal lead, delaying Scolari’s first win back by a month. With far more riding on the outcome of the Confederations game the atmosphere should be charged inside the stadium.
According to the FIFA ticketing service, Brazil versus Italy is already sold out to the stadium’s 56,500 capacity, and those inside will be treated to Brazil’s new generation of offensive talent. Then, on June 30th, the third place play-off will kick off in the early afternoon before the Maracanã hosts the final later the same day.
The Salvador Arena Fonte Nova is amply prepared for the FIFA test event, having hosted two fiery classícos after opening officially earlier this year. Local rivals Bahia and Vitoria, who will both feature in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro, have already played two derbies at the renovated stadium, with the spoils going to Vitoria on each occasion.
The second match, which took place less than a fortnight ago, resulted in Bahia coach Joel Santana losing his job after only a month at the helm of the Bahia ship.
The first game began in absolute chaos. The stadium failed to deal with the demand for tickets and violence erupted as fans lost patience whilst they waited in queues for up to four hours to collect prepaid tickets and enter the stadium.
With no barriers to separate queues the crowd simply piled towards the ticket offices at the stadium without any cohesion. What followed was chaos as several incidents broke out in the frenzy to secure a ticket.
Vitoria walked away the happier set of supporters after a 5-1 thrashing and last week’s result was even sweeter; a 7-3 annihilation, which all but officially wrapped up the Bahian state title.
The second leg finished with a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon, giving Vitoria an 8-4 aggregate victory. The organization outside the ground and fan access both in and around the stadium was also of a far higher standard, with no serious delays in getting everyone inside.
During the 2014 World Cup Salvador will be the main hub of action in the Northeast, hosting more matches than Recife, Fortaleza or Natal. Six matches will take place at the Fonte Nova; four group-stage games, a second-round match and a quarter-final.