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FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Stadiums in the World: 40-31

Words: Kris Heneage, Nick Moore, Martin Mazur, James Fielden, Andy Murray, Joe Brewin, Chris Flanagan, Adam Digby and Nick Ames

40. Providence Park

Stadium facts

Located Portland, USA

Opened 1923

Tenants Portland Timbers

Capacity 21,144

Record attendance 21,144

Like wood? You’ll love Providence Park. The new eastern stand, built during a significant 2010 refurb of a sports field dating back to 1893, has a gorgeous floating wooden roof; the roof of the classic North End, meanwhile, is supported by beams made from reclaimed ship timbers.

The North End is the stadium’s focal point. It is there that the Timbers Army congregate and produce some of the most intricate and beautiful Tifos you will see in North America. In front of them, behind the goal, mascot Timber Joey – not a cuddly kids’ character, but a chainsaw-wielding lumberjack – saws off a slice of log to present to each goalscorer.   

It’s hard to get in – almost every game is a sellout, with a 12,000-long waitlist for season tickets – but it’s worth persevering. Proving the passion this country has for the game, there's almost a cathedral-like feel to Providence Park. When the rain is pelting down (as it often does in the region) and the fans are singing, nothing else matters – and part of that is due to this wonderfully historic building that the Timbers call home. – KH 

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39. St James' Park

Stadium facts

Located Newcastle, England

Opened 1892

Tenants Newcastle United

Capacity 52,405

Recordattendance 68,386

In world of identikit out-of-town sports bowls, St James’ Park’s charm as a proper city-centre stadium endures. Perched at the top of a hill overlooking the one-club, football-mad Toon like a castle, its somewhat lopsided, skewed appearance is a product of circumstances: unable to expand in certain directions, it has modernised in a uniquely asymmetrical manner.

Like Anfield, St James’ Park predates its famous tenants: football has been played here since 1880, whereas United were formed in 1892. Originally built on grazing land, close to the area where public executions were carried out – hence the Gallowgate End’s macabre moniker – it is a testament to overcoming planning permission nightmares.

Anyone with vertigo is advised against a seat high in the Leazes End, but otherwise, matchday here is a joy: the proximity to the station; the pint in The Strawberry or Shearer’s beforehand, and an old-school volume level that the imposing stands trap effectively – and defies a difficult era in which this proud place briefly and moronically became the Sports Direct Arena. – NM 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10  9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

38. Estadio Hernando Siles

Stadium facts

Located La Paz, Bolivia

Opened 1930

Tenants Bolivia, Club Bolivar, La Paz FC, Universitario de La Paz, Chaco Petrolero, Mariscal Braun, Fraternidad Tigres, Academia de Balompié Boliviano, Club 31 de Octubre

Capacity 41,143

Recordattendance 54,820

Like climbing Everest or walking in Antarctica, attending a Bolivia game here is a must for adventure-seekers – at 3,601 metres above sea level, international football has never been closer to the clouds.

Visiting players (and fans) are often affected by the altitude, which produces lack of air, vomits and headaches. In 1993, Brazil suffered their first ever loss in a World Cup qualifier here, and a Maradona-managed Argentina were famously thrashed 6-1 in 2009. But despite FIFA banning international football above 3,000 metres, Bolivia’s ageing national stadium was given immunity.

However, locals have every reason to feel that they’re not taking advantage of playing at the Hernando Siles, considering it’s built in the middle of their capital, La Paz. (Construction space being geographically limited, it’s also the official home of a bewildering number of club sides.) Bolivian president Evo Morales announced the construction of a new stadium in 2014, but work didn’t start; presumably, there will be Hernando Siles action for many years to come. – MM 

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37. Baku Olympic Stadium

Stadium facts

Located Baku, Azerbaijan 

Opened 2015

Tenants Azerbaijan

Capacity 68,700

Recordattendance Unknown

Hubristically named the Olympic Stadium despite Baku having neither hosted the games nor announced plans to do so in the near future, the new home of the Azerbaijan national team will nevertheless make headlines soon enough when it hosts matches as part of the Euro 2020 finals roadshow: it’s been allotted a group game and a quarter-final. Nestling on the Caspian Sea 2,200 miles east of UEFA HQ, it’s closer to Bangladesh than it is to fellow hosts Bilbao.

Fans accessing the ground generally have to take the elaborate – in decoration, not comfort – Baku metro due to its location outside of the city centre, but once there they can enjoy one of the most modern stadia around. During summer 2015 it hosted ceremonies and athletics events at the inaugural European Games and has been made to the top FIFA/UEFA spec. The design is as slick as the nearby oil and with space for nearly 70,000 fans it is undoubtedly going to be a formidable place to go for qualifiers as the country continues to invest bundles of cash into its sporting future. – JF 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10  9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

36. Emirates Stadium

Stadium facts

Located London, England

Opened 2006

Tenants Arsenal

Capacity 60,260

Recordattendance 60,161 

It’s not without good reason that visiting fans unfavourably compare Arsenal’s home ground to a library, but there’s no doubting the architectural appeal of the Emirates Stadium.

Built amid much local acrimony – hundreds of businesses and residents were issued compulsory purchase orders on the site Arsenal now occupy after leaving former home Highbury at the end of 2005-06 – the Emirates is a shining example of what modern stadia can achieve.

Perfect views throughout, easily accessible and designed specifically to lock in as much atmosphere as possible [insert gag here – Ed.], it has also become the unofficial second home for Brazil’s prestige foreign friendlies. 

Wander up the Holloway Road to the ground, stopping off at the odd pub en route, and chew the fat on the vast concourses and you’ve got yourself a perfectly formed day out in North London. Now if they can just make watching football there financially viable to the average punter… – AM

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35. Veltins Arena

Stadium facts

Located Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Opened 2001

Tenants Schalke

Capacity 62,271

Recordattendance 77,803 (for ice hockey)

Schalke’s modern home is among the world’s most technologically advanced – which is perhaps to be expected for a stadium that cost €191m to build in 2001. Its retractable roof is impressive in itself, but it also has a slide-out pitch that’s movable in four hours. Marry that with its centrally suspended scoreboard and one of the coolest tunnels around – celebrating the region’s coal-mine heritage – and the Veltins-Arena is a far cry from its outdated Parkstadion predecessor.

Before hosting five games at the 2006 World Cup – including England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Portugal in the quarter-finals – what was then the Arena AufSchalke welcomed Porto and Monaco for the 2004 Champions League Final which saw Jose Mourinho & Co. crowned kings of Europe.

Simply, a versatile and impressive arena that has served as an inspiration to others. Best of all, it’s packed out for almost every Bundesliga match. – JB

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10  9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

34. Stadion Narodowy

Stadium facts

Located Warsaw, Poland

Opened 2012

Tenants Poland

Capacity 58,145

Recordattendance 57,497

Translated simply as ‘national stadium’, the £400m arena was built for Euro 2012 and features a particularly dramatic retractable roof, which unfolds from a nest suspended above the centre of the pitch.

The only problem is the roof can’t be closed while it’s raining, and no-one thought to check the weather forecast before their World Cup qualifier with England in 2012. The heavens opened and ITV viewers were forced to watch an hour of Adrian Chiles desperately filling air-time, before a delayed kick-off became match officially postponed and we could all watch a rerun of Midsomer Murders instead.

The stadium’s circular exterior features a red and white colour scheme designed to imitate a waving Polish flag, and the venue towers over the adjacent River Vistula that separates it from Warsaw’s city centre.

The UEFA Category 4 stadium was built on the site of the dilapidated 10th Anniversary Stadium and hosted the intriguing 2013 Science Picnic as well as the 2015 Europa League final – won by Sevilla, as usual. – CF 

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33. Stadio Luigi Ferraris

Stadium facts

Located Genoa, Italy

Opened 1911

Tenants Genoa CFC, Sampdoria

Capacity 36,599

Recordattendance 60,000

Unlike many of Italy’s biggest stadiums – often huge concrete bowls built on the outskirts of town – the Luigi Ferraris is located in the centre of the city. Its lack of running track helps lend a very English feel to its matchdays... as do the supporters, especially when Genoa fans launch into You’ll Never Walk Alone – in English.

Whether Genoa or their co-tenants Sampdoria are at home, the atmosphere is among the best in Europe. Fans of both teams often deliver stunning choreography, with huge displays covering either end of the ground and the derby between them is one of the most underrated in Europe, showcasing this wonderful venue at its very best. 

Italy’s oldest stadium, it received an attractive upgrade in time to host Scotland and the Republic of Ireland at Italia 90. Sadly, it’s now so prone to flooding and in desperate need of modernisation, that UEFA deemed it unfit for use this summer and forced Samp to play Europa League games elsewhere. – AD 

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10  9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here 

32. Soccer City

Stadium facts

Located Johannesburg, South Africa

Opened 1989 

Tenants Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa

Capacity 94,736

Recordattendance 94,713

Johannesburg's FNB Stadium became the largest in Africa when it reopened, branded Soccer City, for the 2010 World Cup. Its capacity was reduced to 85,000 for that tournament but that failed to detract from its atmosphere both inside and out.

Thrilling to behold when lit up, it is modelled on a calabash, a kind of African pot, and certainly resembled a cauldron within – particularly when Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the tournament's first goal and when Ghana carried African hopes in the quarter-finals against Uruguay.

Situated outside the centre of town, near Soweto, it has remained in regular use since the World Cup final, hosting several games at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.  – NA 

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31. Stadio Olimpico

Stadium facts

Located Rome, Italy

Opened 1937

Tenants Lazio, Roma

Capacity 73,000

Recordattendance 88,756 (post-1960)

The modern-day Colosseum has undergone countless transformations since it first opened. It was once known as the Stadio dei Centomila – “Stadium of 100,000” – as its capacity reached its peak in the years following World War II. In fact, although nobody seems to know what the record attendance was, most sources contend it was well into six figures.

It received its current name after a renovation for the 1960 Olympics, and it was then almost entirely rebuilt for the World Cup three decades later. It has hosted four European Cup Finals (1977, 1984, 1996 and 2009), but it remains primarily the home to the Italian capital’s two football clubs. 

Whenever Roma and Lazio face off for major trophies or simply local bragging rights, the stadium’s myriad problems become irrelevant as supporters transform it into one of the world’s most passionate venues. Few places can match for drama, history or nostalgia, and it remains a hugely intimidating place to play for visiting teams if the home crowd are up for the occasion. – AD

FFT's 100 Best Stadiums: 100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10  9 • 8 • 7 • 6 • 5 • 4 • 3 • 2 • 1

#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here