Welcome to the jungle
MANAUS, Brazil (AP) – The grass at the Arena da Amazonia will be green for England’s game against Italy, either naturally or artificially.
Workers at the stadium in Manaus have been using green dye on the dead areas of the playing surface to make sure it looks good for today’s Group D match at the World Cup.
It’s not an unusual move, but it comes after the head groundsman said this week that the field is “in bad shape”.
While television crews were setting up behind the goals yesterday, the grounds crew was working on the field, making sure the lines and penalty spot were bright white.
Despite concerns over the quality of the field, FIFA is clearly satisfied with its condition. Both England and Italy trained on it yesterday, standard procedure for a match at a major tournament. If the field was not in playing shape, then FIFA could cancel the practices and ask the teams to train elsewhere.
“I’ve just been on the pitch and it’s totally fine,” England captain Steve Gerrard said. “The grass is perfect length.”
The Arena da Amazonia is one of several stadiums in Brazil that was completed way behind schedule. The venue was supposed to have been finished a year ago, but crews were still scrambling to finish work only last month.
The state of the pitch ahead of today’s match was a separate problem, but one that seems to have been successfully rectified.
“The turf that had been described to me, they said that it was in very bad condition, but it’s actually in very good condition,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. “It’s not exceptional, but it’s good.”
And its first real test is one of the most highly anticipated matches of the group phase.
With Uruguay and Costa Rica also in Group D, both England and Italy head into today’s game knowing that a loss will be a huge hit to their hopes of advancing.
“We’ll be perfectly happy on that pitch,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. “It will suit both teams. … It will be possible to play good football.”
After months of talking about the heat and humidity in Manaus, the problematic field is a concern neither team ever really considered.
Manaus is located in the Amazon rainforest and temperatures are expected to be about 32 degrees Celsius during the day today. The humidity is likely to be at least 80 per cent.
Coping with the weather conditions will likely be harder than coping with the field conditions.