Stadiums offer the comforts of home
What do most football clubs have in common? They all have a home ground or stadium to call their own, a fortress where they can look forward to playing in front of the local supporters every other week. National teams, on the other hand, often move about the country for their home fixtures - understandly so given their nationwide support.
However, there are numerous examples of international teams who do claim a residence of their own, so join FIFA.com on a journey around the globe as we take a look at the most famous national stadiums on planet football.
One of the most renowned football arenas worldwide is London's Wembley Stadium. The 'spiritual home of football', as it is known to many, has played host to several classic encounters down the years, not least the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ Final with its controversial goal from Geoff Hurst in extra time. And while fans are still debating whether that shot crossed the line and should have been allowed, England's followers are just happy it stood and that their side went on to win their one and only world title that day. As you would expect, the Three Lions continue to play the majority of their home fixtures on that 'hallowed turf'.
Once desribed by Brazilian legend Pele as "the church of football, the capital of football and the heart of football," Wembley was completely redeveloped between 2003 and 2007 and is now the second-largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 90,000 people - not to mention its iconic 133 metre arch.
The Stade de France just outside Paris also saw host nation France lift the FIFA World Cup trophy. The 80,000 capacity stadium was newly built for France 1998 and will always hold a special place in the hearts of supporters of Les Bleus after their team marched to a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the Final.
The Luzhniki Olympic Stadium in Moscow, meanwhile, is one of the few arenas to boast an artificial pitch. Unfortunately for the Sbornaja, however, the synthetic surface has been anything but a happy hunting ground of late, particularly after they were defeated 1-0 by visitors Germany during qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The loss ended Russia's chances of topping the European Zone Group 4 table and led to a play-off with Slovenia, which they would end up losing on aggregate.
From giant to tiny
Built in 1966, the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is one of the largest in the world with a capacity of over 100,000 people, and it is the only venue to have hosted two FIFA World Cup Finals (1970 and 1986). In Buenos Aires, the ground known as El Monumental is home to the Argentinian national team and hosted four of the Albiceleste's matches including the Final en route to winning the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
Vintage is probably the best way to describe the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. After all, this was the venue of the first FIFA World Cup Final in 1930. The Uruguayan national stadium, with a capacity of 70,000, was opened on 18 July, 1930, on the occasion of the host nation's first FIFA World Cup match against Peru and 100 years to the day after the passing of the Uruguayan constitution. The home fans also enjoyed victory on home turf as their side went on to become the first world champions.
Over seven decades later and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan triggered an incredible football boom across Asia, where the stadiums stand comparison with any in the world. The Azadi Stadium in Tehran is a case in point, welcoming around 100,000 fans for every home game played by the Iranian national team. Korea Republic, meanwhile, remained undefeated throughout all of their home qualifiers for South Africa 2010, picking up three wins and four draws in front of almost 70,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul.
Last but not least we head to the continent set to host football's flagship event in just aunder 100 days: Africa. The Super Eagles from Nigeria play most of their home games at the 60,000-capacity Abuja National Stadium, while the Pharaohs of Egypt have the choice of several national arenas in capital city Cairo. The Cairo International stadium is arguably the pick of the bunch, especially when 70,000 passionate Egyptians transform the giant arena into a simmering cauldron.
As for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts themselves, several stadiums have been newly built or redeveloped for the showdown in South Africa in three months time. The most imposing is the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, where both the opening match and the Final will take place. With a capacity of almost 90,000, it is the new home of South African football and bears a striking resemblance to an African clay pot.
A number of giant stadiums have been mentioned, but what about the smaller venues? The Faroe Islands, for example, play their home matches at the 6,000-strong Torsvollur Stadium in Torshavn, while San Marino proudly welcome the world's finest to the Stadio Olimpico, which holds just 7,000.
Whether 100,000 fans or just 5,000, players and fans the world over would agree that singing their country's national anthem in their home stadium is hard to surpass.
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