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The internal demolition of the old Maracanã (also known as the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho) to create a modern-day stadium able to meet with the strict demands of FIFA's World Cup left the imposing, world-famous (and heritage-protected) circular symbol of Brazilian football intact. Beset by delays, sky-rocketing costs and accusations of corruption, the rebuilding echoed that of 1948, when the stadium's first stone was laid amidst huge controversy. Despite the Uruguay team not reading the script and over-turning Brazil's early lead in the final to win 2-1 infront of 200,000 fans, the stadium has since had a glittering history of footballing emotion and some of the country's biggest live concerts.
Those wryly observing the delays and setbacks this time around would do well to remember that despite hosting the 'final which shall no longer be mentioned' in 1950, the stadium wasn't finished until the mid-1960s. There is no such room for manoeuvre in today's game, however, as wranglings between FIFA and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) with deadlines approaching, proved. England were invited to be Brazil's opposition in the first official match in the renovated stadium on 2 June 2013 ahead of the first real logistical test, the FIFA 2013 Confederations Cup. In the second half of 2013 the stadium should be set to once again host home games of the Rio teams Flamengo and Fluminense and, therefore, the biggest derby in the city, the 'Fla-Flu'. Always guaranteeing an emotion-packed stadium, it leads the list of 'must see' games for visitors to the city looking to experience the real flavour of Latin American football, huge banners, relentless drumming and grown men crying all part of the fun.
As important as it is to carioca football fans, the stadium is also cherished nationwide, despite, or perhaps as a concerted effort to erase the memory of, the Maracanazo of 1950. In 1976, São Paulo side Corinthians brought 70,000 travelling fans to a game against Fluminense and both Pelé and Romario scored the 1,000th goal of their careers there. Still, the impact of that defeat in 1950 will only truly be erased with victory in 2014. Quite simply, nothing less from coach Felipe Scholari's team will do.
4 Jun 2013.