By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This Sunday, June 2nd the Seleção Brasileira – Brazilian national team – take to the field to play a friendly against England as part of their preparations for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, which kicks-off on June 15th. The match will be only the second test-event for the Maracanã Stadium after reopening in late April.
The clash between the two football (soccer) heavyweights is promising to spectators. As well as serving as preparation for Brazil’s Confederations Cup quest, the match also holds significance for England as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations, and thousands are expected to make the trip to the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Luke Edwards is making the trip to Rio for the second time but it will be his first time at the Maracanã. “It’s one of the most famous football stadiums in the world, right up there with Wembley or the Bernabeu… Last time I was here [in Rio] it was still closed. To be inside will be a real thrill.”
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have the 23 players he called up for the Confederations Cup at his disposal. He has two final friendlies – the game against England and a match against France on June 9th – to fine tune his starting XI in preparation for June 15th’s opener against Japan.
Pressure is on Scolari to lift the Confederations Cup at the end of June. Despite not being a prestigious trophy, the side has performed poorly since Felipão took over the reins at the end of November. Success in the tournament will boost the 2002 World Cup winner and give the squad morale a boost twelve months before the Seleção go in search of a sixth World Cup crown.
England will be without four big names for the match. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, Arsenal playmaker Jack Wilshere, Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley and Andy Carroll, currently courting interest from West Ham, will all miss out through injury.
For the Maracanã it will be the first game in over a month. The first test-event occurred on April 27th in a glamorous event celebrating the reopening of the stadium after two and a half years of renovation work.
A celebrity kick-about featuring Brazilian stars of the past took place in front of 30,000 spectators. The experience was an overall success but the upcoming friendly will be a far more stringent examination.
It was expected that a second match would be played during the month of May, either the final of the Campeonato Carioca, a Flamengo game in the Copa do Brasil or a Fluminense Copa Libertadores tie were all possibilities. Yet no match took place, meaning Sunday’s friendly will be the final test prior to the FIFA tournament.
Tickets are sold out and the Maracanã will be full to capacity, which means close to 80,000 fans will fill the arena for the first time in almost three years. Being an international match between two titans of the game, the world’s media spotlight will be fixed upon the stadium and its capability of dealing with a massive crowd.