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Maracana to welcome England in friendly

Sepp Blatter boosts Turkey's Olympic hopes and Brazil's Maracana will open to its new full capacity to host England.

Last Modified: 07 May 2013 19:49
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Fans entered Maracana for the first time in two-and-a-half years in April during exhibition match [Reuters]

Brazil will be exploring untested ground when they host England in a friendly at the newly-refurbished Maracana next month.

A test event scheduled for May 15 at the giant stadium, venue for the Confederations Cup in June and the 2014 World Cup finals, was cancelled by the Rio government on Tuesday.

When the venue was officially reopened at the end of April, four months behind schedule, it functioned at only 30 percent of its capabilities, only two entrances were used and it still resembled a building site on the outside.

The high-profile June 2 match against England, when the stadium will be open to its new full capacity of 78,000 spectators, will therefore be the only test before it hosts three matches during the June 15-30 Confederations Cup.

The Rio government issued a statement saying that instead of the May 15 event, there would be a series of simulations of the facilities 'to optimise the necessary tests, focusing on the technical aspect'.

The Maracana, FIFA's main concern during delays in the building or modernisation of most of the World Cup stadiums, has had a complete overhaul costing $448 million.

Workers are racing against the clock to meet the latest deadline of May 27 for the stadium to be delivered to world soccer governing body.

'International showcase'

Turkey's hosting a FIFA competition for the first time, the Under-20 World Cup, can help boost bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games said FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday.

The Swiss football supremo was speaking after a meeting in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself a former professional footballer, about the tournament that runs from June 21 to July 13.

Istanbul, who are making their strongest bid yet to host the Olympics, are competing against Madrid, who finished runners-up for the 2016 Games, and Tokyo, who are the only one of the three contenders to have hosted them, in 1964. 

"This is FIFA's first competition in Turkey and we have very high expectations, but we are confident it will be a great event," Blatter said in comments posted on the FIFA website.

"I encouraged the Prime Minister that Turkey uses the FIFA U-20 World Cup as an international showcase for Istanbul's bid for the 2020 Olympic Games," said Blatter, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

He and his fellow members will vote on who hosts the 2020 Games in Buenos Aires on September 7.

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