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Brazil score spectacular own goal but match goes ahead despite Maracana delays

The stadium is still surrounded by heaps of building materials. Photo: ITV News/Nick Ravenscroft

For months there were predictions that on Sunday Brazil would score a spectacular own goal at the Maracana.

Not so much on the pitch… as the bricks and mortar of the famous stadium ITSELF.

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent renovating it ahead of the World Cup next year.

As well as for the tournament which is the traditional curtain raiser - the FIFA Confederations Cup - which begins just next month.

The England friendly on Sunday has been billed as the first proper test of the facilities.

And the question which has been getting louder and more insistent: would the Maracana be ready on time?

Or would it give ammunition to critics who say that Brazil's not up to the job of hosting global sporting events?

The stadium is to host a friendly match between England and Brazil. Credit: ITV News/Nick Ravenscroft

Deadlines for completion have finally been met, having been missed time and again.

But when I visited this week parts of the exterior still looked like a building site - although inside the Maracana is impressive.

FIFA has been gnashing its teeth harder and harder with its number two last year telling Brazil it need "a kick up the backside" to deliver the infrastructure projects on time.

Only last month the pressure was cranked up again - although using slightly more diplomatic language - with football's world governing body warning Brazil that delays in delivering stadiums "will not be tolerated" for the World Cup.

Because it's not just the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

Work under way at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium in Brazil. Credit: ITV News/Nick Ravenscroft

The stadium in the country's capital, Brasilia, is due to host the opening match of the Confederations Cup.

It's also been redeveloped and has only just been handed over to FIFA with insufficient time for all the checks and dry runs the organisation wants to do before thousands of fans walk through the turnstiles in mid-June.

The Brazilian authorities' explanation for the delay? Heavy rain halting construction work. And yet most of Brazil is tropical in climate… so rain is not an oddity.

And only this week, on the day that the country's president praised the modernity of the newly-developed football stadiums, one in the north-eastern city of Salvador experienced a partial roof collapse because of… you've guessed it… heavy rain.

The Maracana will host the 2014 World Cup final. Credit: Soeren Stache/DPA

A helicopter showed pictures of workers up on adjacent sections of roof bailing out pools of water with buckets to stop further collapses.

Brazilian friends of mine winced with embarrassment at the images - Salvador's new stadium was only inaugurated last month.

And there's more. In Sao Paulo… problems too… with engineers admitting a stadium being developed for the World Cup would not by ready by FIFA's December deadline.

Two weeks ago FIFA's Secretary-General, Jerome Valcke, visited Brazil and threatened that matches scheduled to be played in Sao Paulo could be moved elsewhere if the stadium wasn't handed over on time.

So… Sunday. The Maracana. Rio de Janeiro. A chance for the Brazilian authorities - as well as Roy Hodgson's England - to send out a statement of intent about next year's World Cup.

Macarana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Reuters