By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL- Belo Horizonte’s Mineirão Stadium is ready to host some of the biggest names in world football (soccer) over the next twelve months. The renovated arena was finished at the end of 2012 and has already hosted three major events to test the stadium’s efficiency at dealing with large crowds.
Earlier this year, in the Campeonato Mineiro, the Minas Gerais state championship, the fierce Cruzeiro-Atlético derby was the first official game to be played at the reopened ground. Cruzeiro narrowly won the classíco 2-1.
Last month the Seleção Brasileira – Brazilian national team – played a friendly at the ground. Over 60,000 watched Brazil struggle to a 2-2 draw against Chile, Brazil’s latest friendly to date.
Only last week the stadium hosted a Paul McCartney concert, as the former Beatles star continues his Brazilian tour. But whilst the show was a success, the services at the Mineirão allegedly left much to be desired.
Daniella Moraes, who lives in Rio de Janeiro but travelled to Belo Horizonte, was far from happy with what she saw at the World Cup arena. “The show was fantastic but the facilities inside the Mineirão were dreadful,” she told The Rio Times.
Feedback is the intention of the test-events so that spectator experience can be improved for the Confederations Cup kicking-off in just a little over a month. Moraes shared, “Hardly any of the food kiosks were open and therefore queues were huge. And in the bathrooms some of the toilets didn’t flush properly, leaving a disgusting smell.”
Two group-games are set to take place in the Mineirão on June 17th and 22nd. The first clash sees Tahiti take on Nigeria before Japan face Mexico in Group A.
The four-time Asian Cup champions are not one of the favorites to progress to the knock-out stages but have been a sustained presence at the World Cup in recent editions. They will be led by 24-year-old Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa, the country’s current idol and team’s focal point.
Kagawa is joined by midfielder Keisuke Honda, currently contracted to Russian club CSKA Moscow. The 26-year-old has been on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs and could well use the Confederations Cup to put himself in the shop window as he looks for a transfer.
Nevertheless, the two make an exciting pair for crowds at the Mineirão. Should Japan make it through to the semi-finals they could well make a return to Belo Horizonte. The Mineirão will host the tournament’s first semi on June 26th, when the winner of Group A takes on Group B’s runner-up.
The city is also set for major participation during the 2014 World Cup, with the Mineirão hosting six matches; five group games throughout June and then a semi-final on July 8th. It is easy to understand the city’s heavy participation, as two of the Brazil’s biggest clubs, Atlético-MG and Cruzeiro, hail from Belo Horizonte and have fueled the fan-base.