By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The recently reopened Maracanã Stadium hosted its second event last Sunday, June 2nd, as the Seleção (Brazilian national team) drew 2-2 with England in a friendly match in preparation to the Confederations Cup. The first test event on April 27th welcomed around 30,000 fans, and on Sunday over 66,000 people filled Rio’s temple to football (soccer).
The level of public investment at the site has exceeded R$1 billion, almost fifty percent over the original budget. Yet fans of the game will attest there is now a football stadium to match some of the greatest sporting stages of the world in the Cidade Maravilhosa.
The friendly on Sunday was excellent, exciting and a fitting reopening for such an iconic home of top class football. Brazil, particularly in the first half, seemed inspired by the occasion and were unlucky not to go in at the break two or three goals up.
The sprightly Joe Hart in the England goal was the only line of defense the English seemed to have. But he could not keep the Brazilians out on his own and on 57 minutes the deadlock was finally broken.
Hernanes, a second-half substitute, curled a long-range effort round Hart only to see the ball cannon back off the crossbar. Fluminense striker Fred was on hand to turn the ball home.
There followed a feeling the floodgates could open and Brazil may win by a cricket score. England refused to be beaten however, and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive from the edge of the area found the net. Only twelve minutes later Thiago Silva failed to close down Wayne Rooney whose diagonal run led to a perfect curling effort from 25 yards.
The English advantage lasted just three minutes. Lucas Moura’s right side cross found Paulinho free in the area to volley the equalizer. The game ended all square, but a success for the city of Rio who had a tremendous amount of pressure to host at near-full capacity.
An estimated 1,500 English fans had made the trip and the Carioca sun came out to give them a little taste of what a World Cup on these shores will be like. Travel to the stadium, both from Zona Norte and Zona Sul (North and South Zone), ran well with the city council putting on extra subway trains to ferry fans to the match, with announcements in English as well as Portuguese.
Once at the stadium bilingual volunteers were on hand to ease people through the turnstiles and airport-style metal detectors. The extra access tunnels, a useful addition, sped up the entrance and exit of supporters significantly.
The seats inside are larger than before and there are no blocked or partial view seating. Wide aisles allow access in and out of the seating area without interrupting other people in your row.
Bathrooms were in a far better state than at the first test-event. The main complaint was the bar and snack area. Food and drink were extremely expensive, and fans suffered long lines and several items were sold out before half-time.
England fan Simon Cooper said, “I had a great time at the Maracanã. My only issue is the hot dogs ran out before I got one.[…] I was at the Olympic Games last year [in London] and there were also issues with the snack bars there.”
Brazilian Maria Caetano told The Rio Times, “The stadium was beautiful. There were a few issues with understanding which seating sectors were where and they could have had more people explaining this inside.”
But by most accounts the event was a triumph for the city.