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May 29, 2017

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English minnows star where it all began for Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The World Cup did not pan out as fans of Brazil and England had hoped.

But the hosts will Sunday celebrate a century since their first ever international — with a fourth tier English club side providing the opposition.

An under 23 side from top flight Fluminense will face little Exeter City at Rio's antique Laranjeiras stadium to mark 100 years since a Rio-Sao Paulo select met the same modest outfit at the historic venue.

Brazilian authorities recognized the game against the "Pride of Devon" as Brazil's first ever international and the encounter has gone down in the sepia-tinted annals of the sport.

"This is where that first Brazil game was played, 100 years ago," said Fluminense marketing director Rodrigo Terra, eyeing the pitch from a trophy room containing all manner of cups won by "Flu" in its 112-year history.

Exeter boast just a fourth division title achieved under former England defender Terry Cooper in 1990 — his successor being World Cup winner Alan Ball.

Fluminense have in recent years staged home games at the famed Maracana, which staged the World Cup final, as the Laranjeiras stadium can today accommodate barely 6,000.

A total of 900 tickets were made available for Sunday and all have been snapped up.

"They sold out in two days," a Fluminense spokeswoman told AFP.

Fluminense have anglo-Brazilian roots, Brazilian-British businessman Oscar Cox founding the club in 1902.

The original Exeter game marked Fluminense's 12th birthday.

"Now, we shall mark a century since the start of the great history of our national side," Terra told AFP.

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