RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazilian professional soccer teams can use newly refurbished Maracanã stadium until May, a month before the World Cup begins, FIFA said after inspecting the iconic venue on Jan. 16.
“The point of this visit was not to redesign the stadium – it’s a beautiful stadium,” FIFA delegate Chris Unger said of the venue, which underwent a multimillion dollar improvement before it hosted the Confederations Cup last June.
Unger said the delegation was pleased with what it saw.
The stadium has hosted many games since the Confederations Cup and will be used for the Rio de Janeiro state championship in the next few months.
The World Cup opens on June 12.
Maracanã stadium will host seven World Cup games – Argentina against Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 15, Spain versus Chile on June 18, Belgium against Russia on June 22, Ecuador against France on June 25, a second-round game on June 28, a quarterfinal on July 4 and the final on July 13.
The FIFA delegation will visit the five other stadiums that hosted Confederations Cup games to make sure they are on the right track to host the World Cup. The stadiums are in Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Fortaleza, Salvador and Recife.
Neymar suffers sprained ankle
Brazilian forward Neymar likely will be out for three weeks after spraining his right ankle in FC Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Getafe in a Copa del Rey game on Jan. 16.
Neymar was dribbling toward the goal line before he fell to the ground without making contact with a defender in the 22nd minute.
“Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” coach Gerardo Martino told reporters. “He’ll be sidelined for a time but everyone should stay cool. He’s all right. I don’t think it will sideline him too long.”
Brazil’s Glover Teixeira gets UFC title fight
Brazilian Glover Teixeira will have a shot to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight title when he faces Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 172 in Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland on April 26.
Jones (19-1), a native of Rochester, N.Y., is considered the top pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world by ESPN. He has successfully defended his title six times. Jones, 26, defeated Alexander Gustafsson in a unanimous decision at UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
Teixeira (22-2), a native of Minas Gerais, has won 20 straight fights dating to March 2005. Teixeira, 34, was impressive in his last match, as he knocked out Ryan Bader in less than three minutes. He’s won nine of his past 10 fights by knockout or submission.
Four Latin American teams ranked in FIFA’s top 10 rankings
Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil are all ranked in the top 10 in the world in the latest rankings by FIFA, international soccer’s governing body.
Spain remains atop the ranking, followed by Germany, Argentina and Colombia. Portugal is fifth, followed by Uruguay, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Brazil at No. 10.
The United States is No. 14, a spot ahead of Chile, while Mexico is 21st, two spots ahead of Ecuador. Costa Rica is 32nd, while Panama is 36th, Peru is 42nd and Honduras is 43rd.
The next-highest ranked Latin American team is Paraguay at 51st.