Soccer: Wonder goal marks Maracana makeover

Joe Hart blocks a header from Brazil's Fred as England hold Brazil to a draw at revamped Maracana. Photo / AP
Joe Hart blocks a header from Brazil's Fred as England hold Brazil to a draw at revamped Maracana. Photo / AP

Paulinho equalised late on with a volley for Brazil to draw 2-2 with England yesterday and prevent the 2014 World Cup soccer hosts from losing their opening match at the revamped Maracana stadium.

After Fred put Brazil ahead in the 57th minute in Rio de Janeiro, Wayne Rooney teed up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's leveller and then curled England in front with a deflected goal.

But Paulinho's goal in the 82nd minute ensured England would fail to replicate its victory over Brazil at Wembley Stadium four months ago.

"You want to be able to close out the game, so in that sense we are disappointed," Oxlade-Chamberlain told British broadcaster Sky Sports. "But the boys showed great passion and great fight ... it's tough coming away in the heat."

About 66,000 fans were in the Maracana, which has had renovations worth $1 billion to turn it into a 79,000-seat venue.

The game was thrown into doubt last week when a judge ruled the stadium was unsafe, but the order was overturned. The confusion reflected the various cost overruns and delays in building stadiums in Brazil ahead of the Confederations Cup, which starts in two weeks.

Brazil's prospects of replicating its 2002 World Cup success are looking distant, with Luis Felipe Scolari's side having won just one of their past six games.

Star Brazil forward Neymar, who heads to Barcelona after the game for his official presentation after signing a five-year deal at the Spanish champions, could find no way past goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Hart also denied Hulk and Filipe Luis in quick succession in the first half, and blocked a powerful shot from Oscar.

"We didn't play well in the first half, but we battled and dug deep," Hart said.

Brazil goalkeeper Cesar denied Theo Walcott twice in a first half dominated by the hosts. Their breakthrough came after the break when Hernanes hit the crossbar and Fred pounced from close range.

England's fortunes turned after Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Glen Johnson on the hour, 29 years after his father Mark Chamberlain appeared for England in the same stadium. It took just seven minutes for Oxlade-Chamberlain to score. "He smashed us back into the game," Hart said of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

"Some draws can be labelled victories and some draws can be labelled defeats," England manager Roy Hodgson said. "I'm a bit disappointed today, and we were playing so well in the second half I thought we might just hold on to it. But we were scotched by a wonder strike."

- AAP

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