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England And Brazil Prepare For Maracana-Stadium Rematch After Nearly 30 Years

posted 31 May 2013, 17:03 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 31 May 2013, 17:04 ]

England and Brazil train in Rio de Janeiro ahead of Sunday's friendly match atMaracana Stadium.

RIO DE JANEIROBRAZIL (MAY 31, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Despite last-minute threats that the iconic Maracana stadium would not be allowed to host its first England-Brazil soccer match in nearly 30 years, all signs were good as the two squads practised on Friday (May 31) in Rio de Janeiro. The last time Brazil hosted England at Maracana was in 1984.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and his team mates will be looking to make it two in a row on Sunday (June 2) against the Brazilian green and gold.

The last time these teams met in February, England beat Brazil 2-1 at Wembley. It was England's first victory over the Latin American powerhouse in 23 years.

Sadly for England, they will be without striker Daniel Sturridge after the Liverpoolplayer suffered an ankle injury in the 1-1 draw with Ireland on Wednesday (May 29).

England manager Roy Hodgson's squad is considered short on attacking firepower and will have to heavily rely on the scoring abilities of Rooney.

Soccer fans from both Brazil and England attended England's training session hoping to see their heroes in action before Sunday's match.

Ten-year-old Brazilian Pedro Martins was, like many others, was excited about the possibility of meeting Rooney face to face.

"It's the first time that I have come here," Martins said. "I have been anxiously paying attention. I already got an autograph and photo and I want more, to speak to Rooney and take a photo with him."

Fans and the players on both sides were relieved when on Thursday (May 30) a court order suspending the match over safety concerns at the Maracana was then later reversed.

Sunday's match will be the first international contest held in the newly renovated $500-million arena first built for the 1950 World Cup.

The stadium, considered the spiritual home of Brazilian football, was supposed to be ready for its re-inauguration in December, six months ahead of the Confederations Cup in June.

However it did not re-open until April 27.

For Brazil, Sunday's match will be one of its last two friendly games before they host the Confederations Cup, considered to be a 2014 World Cup dress rehearsal.

As always the pressure for Brazil, five-times world champions, will be intense.

Perhaps the most pressure rests on the shoulders of 21-year-old striker Neymar who recently made a highly-anticipated deal to play with Spanish championsBarcelona.

Neymar will be travelling to Barcelona after Sunday's friendly so he can be officially presented to his new team before the Confederations Cup begins.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, a world champion in 2002, will certainly also shoulder a great deal of blame should Brazil fail to perform better than it has of late.

Police colonel, Marcio Vasconcelos, who attended Brazil's training session, held very little hope for Sunday and beyond.

"The team is terrible," he said. "On the Brazilian level, it's a really low level for the national teams we are accustomed to seeing."

Young and markedly more optimistic Maria Luiza Albuquerque, a student, believes her country's team is shaping up.

"A great selection," she said. "I think that this year they will win, bring us the victory."

Luckily for Brazil, earlier in the week the team won a dispute over whether players Dante and Luiz Gustavo were going to be allowed to return to Brazil in time for the match.

Both were expected to play for Bayern Munich in the German Cup final against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday (June 1).

Under FIFA rules, the players had to be available for training 14 days before the Confederations Cup that starts on June 15.

After playing England on Sunday, Brazil entertain France at the Arena Gremio atPorto Alegre on June 9.