ENGLAND’S friendly against Brazil on Sunday was in doubt last night after fears were raised over safety at the Maracana Stadium.
The high-profile match was suspended, according to the Sao Paulo-based newspaper Estado.
It was reported that the Brazilian football federation (CBF) had been made aware of the issue and was urgently looking at its implications.
But rather than that amounting to a cancellation, the suspension of the fixture appeared instead to put the onus on stadium officials to submit written evidence to state officials that rebuilding work was complete on the venue which will stage next year’s World Cup final.
Estado reported on its website that a state prosecutor had submitted a request for the match to be cancelled because of a lack of assurances that work on the stadium had been finalised, with worries over debris left over by construction workers that could be hurled in the case of a disturbance.
The CBF was unwilling to say last night whether the match at Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous stadium, which has been given a major facelift ahead of Brazil hosting the World Cup, would proceed as planned.
According to the Estado report, the state prosecutor expressed its concern to judge Adriana Costa dos Santos, who applied an injunction to suspend the friendly fixture, due to be England’s first at the Maracana since 1984.
The judge has reportedly demanded to see paperwork showing the overhauled 78,000-seat stadium is fit for purpose.
The judge is quoted as saying: “Despite numerous requests from the public ministry [the state prosecutor], the reports were not delivered in their entirety and we do not have at this moment the proof the stadium meets the minimum requirements necessary to put on matches or events.”
She is also quoted as saying that the most recent report presented by police, that was provided yesterday, “shows that the stadium is still in the phase of construction”.
Judge Costa dos Santos added: “Because of the inaction of those responsible, there is no way we can allow the stadium to be reopened without the proof that it is in satisfactory conditions for hygiene and safety.”
It was reported widely in Brazil that the cost of putting on the game without the appropriate safety certificates would be a fine of $1 million payable by the CBF and match organisers.
The England team have already travelled to Brazil and supporters will be following the team on the rare trip to South America to take on the five-times World Cup winners.
Meanwhile, Frank Lampard has set his sights on yet another accolade as he closes in on a century of England caps. The 34-year-old Chelsea midfielder has had an eventful season, breaking the west Londoners’ all-time scoring record before winning the Europa League and signing a new one-year deal.
Lampard has also impressed on the international stage and on Wednesday scored England’s leveller in a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland. Ashley Cole, team-mate for both club and country, captained the side at Wembley after becoming just the seventh English player to reach the 100-caps mark.
It is a milestone that Lampard himself is eyeing, sitting just four games shy of an elite band of players including Bobby Moore, David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton.
“You can’t not think about it,” the midfielder said. “I am on 96, I have been around for an awful long time. I saw Stevie [Steven Gerrard] get that gold cap, which was well deserved, and then Ash last night.
“If I can get there and can stay involved in future games then I would be a very proud man if I did reach that.
“Ash certainly deserves the accolades. To get 100 caps, to start every game and to play at the quality and level he has played for such a long period of time, he deserves everything.
“I think the fans gave him the very right reception, he deserved the moment and the atmosphere was brilliant.”
Lampard was part of Roy Hodgson’s threadbare squad which arrived in Rio yesterday and will be hoping to repeat the victory England achieved over Brazil in February.
Lampard’s stunning strike secured a 2-1 win at Wembley and victory over the Selecao for the first time in 23 years.
A serious-looking ankle injury to Daniel Sturridge, which saw him miss the trip, coupled with Danny Welbeck’s ongoing knee problem means Hodgson would be left with 15 fit outfield players if the latter fails to recover.