Paulinho scores a late equalizer in Brazil's 2-2 draw with England in Rio de Janeiro
Friendly match marks official reopening of Maracana stadium ahead of 2014 World Cup
Brazil will next play France before hosting the Confederations Cup tournament
World's No. 2 team Germany beaten 4-3 by United States in Washington friendly
Brazil’s preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup have been hit by a series of setbacks in the past year, and the national team’s results on the football pitch have been just as patchy.
Sunday’s 2-2 draw with England at the newly reopened Maracana stadium – a match that almost didn’t take place due to a midweek bureaucratic mixup – continued a poor start to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s second reign as coach.
Scolari, who masterminded Brazil’s record fifth World Cup success in 2002, has had four draws and a win since losing 2-1 to England in London in February.
His side failed to defeat an England team which is struggling to qualify for the World Cup, and may need to go through the playoffs as it is second in its group behind Montenegro.
It is not the sort of form the nation’s football-mad fans expect ahead of the Confederations Cup warm-up tournament later this month, where Brazil will defend its title on home soil.
The iconic Maracana, which hosted the decisive game of the 1950 World Cup when Brazil agonizingly lost to Uruguay, has been extensively renovated since the last time England visited in 1984.
The visitors then won 2-0, the last overseas team to triumph at the Rio venue, and the son of one of those players was on target on Sunday.
Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, whose father Mark won one of his eight England caps on that occasion almost 30 years ago, came on as a second-half substitute and fired his team’s leveler in the 67th minute.
England looked set for another famous win when Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney – who also scored in February’s Wembley match – ran at the retreating defense and fired a shot that looped into the net after hitting the back of Fernando.
However, Brazil ensured that would not happen as Paulinho slotted in a sublime volley from Lucas Moura’s right-wing cross with eight minutes to play.
The home side had dominated the first half in front of 66,000 fans, but did not take the lead until 12 minutes after the break when Fred pounced following a lofted long-range shot from Hernanes that came back off the crossbar.
Scolari now has one more match, against France in Porto Alegro next Sunday, before beginning the eight-nation Confederations Cup against Japan on June 15.
The organizers have been rushing to get the stadiums ready in time. Only four of the six stadiums were ready by April’s original deadline, while last week the roof at the venue in Salvador collapsed due to “human error” following heavy rain.
The Maracana reconstruction has been plagued by delays, and last week a court ruled that the ground was not ready for the England match due to safety concerns, before the Rio government appealed the decision – blaming a failure to deliver the required reports to the legislative body.
Meanwhile, German soccer came back to earth with a bump Sunday as the national team lost 4-3 to the United States in Washington.
Germany, second in the world rankings, trailed 4-1 before staging a late comeback.
The Americans, coached by former Germany star Jurgen Klinsmann, took a 13th-minute lead through Jozy Altidore’s superb volley and then visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a mess of a back pass from defender Benedikt Howedes and the ball dribbled across the line and into the net.
Germany captain Miroslav Klose thought he had equaled Gerd Muller’s national record of 68 goals, but was ruled out for offside.
Second-half substitute Heiko Westermann headed in Max Kruse’s corner to reduce the deficit but Tottenham forward Clint Dempsey fired two goals to go second on the U.S. all-time list with 35 overall, 14 behind Landon Donovan.
Kruse smashed in his first international goal on 79 and Julian Draxler added another from close range, but Germany could not prevent a first loss to the U.S. since 1999.
It was the end of a long season for a German squad missing most of the key players who contested the European Champions League final for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, but it was an important preparation for the Americans – who next take on Jamaica, Panama and Honduras in three World Cup qualifying matches.
It was a joyful reunion for Klinsmann, whose Germany counterpart Joachim Low was his assistant when he coached his national team at the 2006 World Cup.
In Sunday’s other international friendlies, Cameroon drew 0-0 with Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland beat Georgia 4-0, Algeria won 2-0 against Burkina Faso, South Africa defeated Lesotho by the same score, and there was a stalemate between Sudan and Tanzania.