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FourFourTwo's 100 Best Football Stadiums in the World: 60-51

Words: Gary ParkinsonJames FieldenChris FlanaganNick Ames, Adam DigbyJohn Duerden, Joe BrewinLee Roden and Nick Moore

60. The Millennium Stadium

Stadium facts

Location Cardiff, Wales

Opened 1999

Tenants Wales, Wales RFU

Capacity 74,500

Record attendance 74,576

Before you start, we know it’s not a regular football ground: Wales more often play at the Cardiff City Stadium, while the (English) FA’s set-pieces have long since reverted to Wembley. And it was built – at a bargain £121m, barely double what Manchester United paid for Angel Di Maria – for the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

But the Mill (soon to be sponsored as the Principality Stadium, to the ire of many) has staged enough big games to be part of football’s folklore. Finals make history, and it staged 46 of them, including Liverpool’s penalty shootout FA Cup triumph over West Ham and a dozen play-off denouements.

It’s a great theatre for the drama. The Taff and the city-centre streets create a tight site, cleverly realigning the old Cardiff Arms Park and National Stadium, while the four supporting masts seem suitably nautical for a port city. The steep-sided stands were a treat after the old Wembley’s shallow bowl, while closing the roof only cranked up the atmosphere. And after the game, fans could spill straight onto the streets to celebrate or commiserate. – GP 

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59. Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanos

Stadium facts

Location Santiago, Chile

Opened 1938 

Tenants Universidad de Chile

Capacity 48,665

Record attendance 85,268 

Named in honour of a former sports journalist (hooray, finally some recognition), Chile’s national and biggest stadium was rather less tastefully used as a detention centre during the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. In terms of football it is steeped in history, having hosted the finals of the 1962 World Cup and 2015 Copa America where Chile famously lifted the trophy against Argentina.

Aside from national football, 17-time Chilean champions Universidad de Chile play their mini-seasons at the ground that was modelled on Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Over 85,000 were packed in for a league game against Catolica in the sixties but now the capacity is nearly half that. 

As football hipsters will be all too aware, Universidad played some of the best football in the world a few seasons back under Jorge Sampaoli. Under the now-Chile coach, football was often played in ‘one direction’ – and the band of the same name attracted nearly 90,000 there for a gig last year. – 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

58. Olympic Stadium (Athens)

Stadium facts

Location Athens, Greece

Opened 1982

Tenants AEK Athens

Capacity 75,263

Record Attendance 82,662

There are no shortage of Olympic Stadiums in the world, and some are particularly inexplicable. FFT doesn't remember the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh ever staging the Olympics, but we’re sure it was probably awesome.

Greece is the home of the Olympics though, and what was previously known as the Spiros Louis Stadium was extensively renovated ahead of the 2004 Games, at which Kelly Holmes et al took gold. The stadium holds 75,000 and features a spectacular sweeping roof structure, although it does get minus points for the decaying ghost town of Olympic venues that surround it.

Before renovation the stadium hosted Champions League home matches for Olympiacos. Since then AEK have made the venue their permanent home, while Panathinaikos have also played European matches there on occasions, in a cauldron of an atmosphere. And in 2007 it hosted the Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan – but if there were miracles in Istanbul, there was only revenge in Athens in 2007 as the Italians got their own back. – CF 

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57. Moses Mabhida

Stadium facts

Located Durban, South Africa

Opened 2009 

Tenants AmaZulu FC

Capacity 54,000

Record attendance 69,000

Another shining light of the 2010 World Cup, Moses Mabhida – named after the former general secretary of the African Communist Party – was built from scratch in time for the tournament. Lead architect Gerhard Le Roux and his team contrived a unique structure whose defining point is the arch, visible for miles around, that curves from one end of the stadium to the other. (You can bungee-jump from it, if you like.)

Its ecologically-minded design led to it being named the 'greenest' ground at the tournament but it is better known for hosting seven of the summer's matches – including Switzerland's shock win over Spain and the latter's semi-final victory over Germany.

The stadium also held six Africa Cup of Nations fixtures in 2013 and a T20 match between South Africa and India in front of a record crowd. Its capacity has since been reduced, but it is set to be the flagship venue for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which Durban will host. – NA 

#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

56. Stadio San Paolo

Stadium facts

Location Naples, Italy

Opened 1959

Tenants Napoli

Capacity 60,240

Record attendance 89,992

One of European football’s most vociferous stadiums, the San Paolo has something of a South American feel on matchdays. Flares, flags and giant banners are in plentiful supply, with the passionate citizens backing their team relentlessly while regularly filling Italy’s third-largest stadium – even when the club found itself in the third tier.

Perhaps it is most famous for the Italia 90 semi-final in which Napoli idol Diego Maradona took on the host nation and won. But even though it’s barely 65 years old and was renovated for Euro 80, Italia 90 and again in 2010, large sections are now closed amid safety fears. The club is in the process of seeking an upgrade, but the fans aren’t holding their breath. – AD 

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55. Rungrado Stadium

Stadium facts

Location Pyongyang, North Korea 

Opened 1989

Tenants Massed games and parades

Capacity 150,000

Record attendance 150,000

Few stadiums on this list are more famous for something other than football, but that’s forgivable when the Rungrado gets 150,000 people packed in for the amazing spectacle of the Arirang Mass Games.

These days the North Korea national team play at the comparatively modest (70,000 capacity) Kim Il-Sung Stadium, but with the Rungrado recently renovated, there are rumours Kim Jong-Un is ready to bring the beautiful game back to what would be the world's largest football stadium.

It opened in 1989 as the centrepiece of the World Youth Festival, a response to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Inside the feeling is of a fairly standard (albeit very big) Soviet-style bowl with some local touches such as 16 arches that make up the roof, designed to create the image of a parachute in flight.

Where it really impresses, however, is on the approach from the Taedong River and the massive outer shell which dominates the neighbourhood. Some visitors have unfairly labelled it 'The Veruca' due to its design, but that sells short a stadium which aims for a powerful impact – and certainly delivers. – JD 

#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

54. Volksparkstadion

Stadium facts

Located Hamburg, Germany

Opened 1953

Tenants Hamburg

Capacity 57,000

Record attendance 57,000

It says on the tin that Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion was opened in 1953, but in truth, today’s current incarnation is little more than 17 years old. When the ‘People’s Stadium’ was ‘renovated’ in 1998, the old ground – which had hosted games at World Cup 1974 and the Euro 88 semi-final between West Germany and the Netherlands – was knocked down completely to make way for a shiny new €95m arena fit for hosting matches at the 2006 World Cup.

In turn, one of Germany’s proudest clubs inherited one of the finest grounds in the world. The stadium was shifted 90 degrees to maximise sunlight, while the track around the old pitch was scrapped to bring supporters closer to the action in their shiny new UEFA Elite arena which still boasts a convertible terrace in the north stand.

Not bad for a ground which wasn’t even built for Hamburg in the first place – Der Dino (the Dinosaurs) moved in 10 years after it was built when they joined the newly formed Bundesliga in 1963. – JB 

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53. Gigante de Arroyito

Stadium facts

Location Rosario, Argentina

Opened 1929

Tenants Rosario Central

Capacity 41,465

Record attendance 50,000

By no means the biggest stadium in our list, but boy does this place come alive with noise. By Argentinian standards it’s close to the pitch and current coach Eduardo Coudet often has to run across it mid-match when he is dismissed for foul-mouthed tirades towards match officials.

Situated hard by the Parana river that flows south toward Buenos Aires, it’s a vibrant place – in 2008 the “green moss” coloured seats were eye-catchingly painted in the club’s blue-and-yellow livery – and difficult for opponents to visit: despite not being one of the big five in Argentina, Rosario Central have lost just seven of their last 45 games top-flight games there (up to November 2015).

Steeped in history, the Estadio Dr Lisandro de la Torre (officially, both the barrio and ground are named after a popular politician) hosted Argentina during the second phase of the 1978 World Cup. It was a happy return for Rosario old boy Mario Kempes, who bagged four in three games there en route to personal and national glory – he won the Golden Boot as Argentina won the World Cup. – 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

52. Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán

Stadium facts

Location Seville, Spain

Opened 1958

Tenants Sevilla FC

Capacity 42,500

Record attendance 71,114

For much of its duration the journey to Sevilla FC’s home isn’t anything special. Walking along Avenida de San Francisco Javier offers little more than concrete housing and glass-fronted offices. Then, turn right into an inconspicuous shopping complex, walk out from under an archway, and it hits you: the 480sq.m. mural which adorns the western exterior of the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.

Painted by Sevilla fan Santiago del Campo in 1982, it features the badges of famous clubs who have played at the ground, ranging from Arsenal to Boca Juniors, and brings a touch of grandness to a stadium that is authentic as they come.

The Sánchez-Pizjuán seems to breathe with its supporters, the rumbling of the advertising boards at the back of the stands and crunching of sunflower seeds underfoot combining with endless singing to create one of the best atmospheres in Europe. Refurbishment works on the exterior this year will hopefully preserve the stadium’s unique character. – LR

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51. Hampden Park

Stadium facts

Location Glasgow, Scotland

Opened 1903

Tenants Scotland, Queen’s Park

Capacity 51,866

Record attendance 149,547

Named after an Englishman – John Hampden, who fought for the Roundheads in the Civil War – this most Scottish of venues was designed by Glaswegian architect Archibald Leitch, the stadium doyen who also had a huge impact south of the border (Old Trafford, Anfield, Villa Park, Goodison Park, White Hart Lane and Craven Cottage are among his babies).

For half a century until the opening of the Maracana, it was the world’s biggest stadium. Declining by the 1970s, it finally underwent a major rebuilding job in the 1990s, but retains the aura of Leitch, whose stands favoured function over form but became classics. The attached Scottish Football Museum is also well worth a visit.

The place is a bit odd when the fans of its club resident, Queen’s Park, scatter in for a fixture, but the Hampden Roar is still in full effect for internationals, albeit probably quieter than it was for the 1960 European Cup Final (Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt) or when nearly 150,000 crammed in to see the Scots face England in 1937. – NM 

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