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May 30, 2013

Rio: Brazil-England friendly to be played

England's friendly with Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday is expected to go ahead despite safety concerns at the recently renovated Maracana Stadium.

Brazil's international friendly against England scheduled for Sunday at Rio de Janeiro's newly renovated Maracana stadium will go on as planned after a judge canceled the game for safety concerns earlier Thursday.

In her ruling, Judge Adriana Costa dos Santos said she was cancelling all matches in the stadium until local organizers presented documents showing that the venue is appropriate to host events. She said the decision was made to guarantee the "safety of fans at the Maracana."

Late Thursday night, the state government of Rio de Janeiro said in a statement that a judge had revoked Costa dos Santos' injunction and the game would be played.

The statement also said the government had received a safety compliance report, which had only failed to be delivered because of bureaucratic error.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors had said that the stadium must remain closed until it is shown there will no safety or health risks to the public attending events at the venue. Prosecutors said they received a police report, saying the stadium presented "safety risks" and added that "dangerous materials" were at the site.

Cancellation and the uproar surrounding it would have been a blow to Brazil and its plan to organize the Confederations Cup -- which opens on June 15. More seriously, it would have raised questions about the South American nation's ability to organize next year's World Cup and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016

FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee tried to distance themselves from the problems, saying they were not responsible for organizing the Brazil vs. England match.

Local organizers, however, acknowledged they are using the match to view "operational areas."

They also noted there were not adequate measures for crowd control at the 79,000-seat venue.

The eight-team Confederations Cup, and next year's 32-team World Cup, has been plagued by delays in getting stadiums ready. The preparations have received open criticism from FIFA.

The six stadiums being used for the Confederations Cup -- a warm-up for the World Cup -- are in various stages of readiness. Six others that will be used for next year's World Cup are still being built, and FIFA has demanded they be ready by Dec. 31.

Earlier, Press Association reported the Brazilian football federation (CBF) had been made aware of the issue, and it was urgently looking at its implications.

The CBF at the time was unwilling to say whether the match at Rio de Janeiro's world famous stadium, which has been given a major facelift ahead of Brazil hosting next year's World Cup, would proceed as planned.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was in Brazil earlier this month to check on venues. He's acknowledged the Confederations Cup will be a maze of unfinished work and admitted that "not all operational arrangements will be 100 percent." He then warned "this will be impossible to repeat for the FIFA World Cup."

"The World Cup, we can't reduce any requirement," he added. "On any (other) competition that would be fine, except at the World Cup. The World Cup is 99 percent of the FIFA system. The World Cup has to be perfect. The World Cup is the diamond of FIFA."

The Maracana stadium in Rio is scheduled to host the Confederations Cup final June 30, and will be the venue for the World Cup final next year. It is also slated to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff this week offered praised for the six Confederations Cup venues, including Maracana.

"Many people did not think we would be able to build these stadiums before the Confederations Cup at the standards required by FIFA," Rousseff said.

She made reference to what she called the "old-mutt" complex, a sense that Brazil lacked confidence and would fail to meet the challenge.

"But the workers who built these stadiums, the businessmen hired to do these works and all the governments involved have proved that Brazil is able to accept challenges and fulfill promptly commitments undertaken."

The England squad, which is hoping to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, arrived in Rio on Thursday for the match. The squad is staying at a hotel on Rio's Copacabana Beach.

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