May 30 (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium will host its first official match, on June 2 against England, since undergoing a controversial overhaul to prepare it for the 2014 World Cup.
Here are five memorable matches played at the stadium:
July 16 1950: Brazil 1 Uruguay 2
One of the first games at Maracana was supposed to be the most triumphant. Instead, the loss to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup final became, for Brazilians, a national tragedy.
Having thrashed Sweden 7-1 and Spain 6-1 in their previous two matches, Brazil were overwhelming favourites to crush their opponents and lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time. A reputed world-record crowd of 205,000 turned out to see the home side complete the formalities. Instead, Uruguay came from behind to win 2-1 and pull off what remains one of football’s biggest shocks. Brazil did not play another game for almost two years and never again wore the white shirts they used that day.
Nov. 19 1969: Santos 2 Vasco Da Gama 1
Pele laughs at suggestions that he saved his 1,000th goal for Maracana but there is no doubt it was a fitting stage for such a feat.
The Santos-Vasco match took place on a beautiful spring night and 65,157 people were in the crowd. The game stood at 1-1 until the 77th minute when Pele was upended in the box.
The penalty award was controversial and it was several minutes before the protests abated and the spot kick could be taken.
When it was, Pele calmly slotted the ball home. The goal is mostly remembered for what Pele did afterwards. He ran to pick up the ball, kissed it, and was besieged by journalists. His comments later, dedicating the goal to Brazil’s disadvantaged children, were unexpected and made a huge impression. The celebrations, however, took their toll. Santos lost their next four matches, their worst run in 14 years.
Dec. 5 1976: Fluminense 1 Corinthians 1
Corinthians had not won a major title since 1955 and their supporters were desperate for success. When the Sao Paulo club reached the semi-finals of the Brazilian league in 1976, more than 70,000 Corinthians fans made the 440-km journey to see them take on favourites Fluminense.
The huge Corinthians presence in the 146,000 crowd became known as the “Corinthians invasion”.
The game was hard fought and silky football was made impossible by a torrential downpour that waterlogged the pitch. After 90 minutes the match stood at 1-1 but Corinthians won on penalties against a home side with Carlos Alberto Torres and Rivelino in their ranks.
While they lost the final a few days later against Internacional, Corinthians made amends the year after by beating Ponte Preta to take their first title in two decades.
Nov. 8 1981: Flamengo 6 Botafogo 0
All of Rio’s big four clubs can recall memorable moments at the Maracana but the stadium is perhaps associated most with Flamengo and in the 1980s one player made the venue his personal playground.
Zico scored more goals there than any other player and a 6-0 victory over Botafogo was particularly sweet.
Botafogo had demolished Flamengo 6-0 in 1972 and they never let their rivals forget it. On this day, Zico scored twice and, ably supported by Nunes, Mozer, Junior, Adilio and Andrade, ran a match that became famous as “The Revenge Game”. As if to confirm their greatness, a month later Flamengo would win the World Club Championship by taking apart a Liverpool side that featured Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish.
Sept. 19 1993: Brazil 2 Uruguay 0
Brazil had never failed to qualify for the World Cup finals but in September 1993 that record was in doubt after they had lost a World Cup qualifier for the first time earlier in the campaign.
After stuttering through their games, the home side needed to avoid defeat against their old rivals Uruguay to guarantee a place in the United States and another shot at the title they had not won since 1970.
The ghost of 1950 was alive and well and so it was time to call in the cavalry.
Romario was grudgingly recalled to the side after refusing to play in a previous match. The pressure on him was enormous, leading his father to declare he was not the nation’s saviour; except he was.
As he did so often at the Maracana, Romario turned it on when he had to. Two late goals in front of a capacity 120,000 crowd gave Brazil the win they needed. Less than a year later they would lift the World Cup for a record fourth time. (Compiled by Andrew Downie; Editing by Clare Fallon)