England relaxed over Manaus pitch

14 June 2014 05:17

Roy Hodgson and Steven Gerrard have no concerns about the Arena Amazonia pitch ahead of England's World Cup opener against Italy.

After months of build-up, the Three Lions will kick-off their campaign on Saturday deep in the heart of the world's largest tropical rainforest.

England have spent time in the Algarve, Miami and Rio de Janeiro in a bid to acclimatise to the hot and humid conditions of Manaus, while their warm-up matches pitted them against the kind of opponents they could face in Brazil.

The preparation has been impressive but looked set to be hampered somewhat by a problematic pitch, with images emerging just days before the Italy encounter showing the surface to be in a shocking state.

Over-fertilisation made the grass dry and led to brown patches which, remarkably, a man with a cannister on his back appeared to be spraying paint over on Thursday.

FIFA refused to comment on the matter and World Cup organisers insisted the Arena Amazonia pitch will be in "good condition" - something manager Hodgson and captain Gerrard go along with.

"I have just gone on the pitch with Steven and it was fine," Hodgson said. "It is very flat. I don't see reason to have any concern about it at all.

"We are quite happy to play on that pitch tomorrow night and I think it will suit both teams.

"The grass is very short, it is very flat and it will be possible to play good football on it."

Gerrard echoed his manager's sentiments, saying: "I think with experience I've learned to wait until I walk on the pitch and judge it myself.

"It is quite easy to read things or go on another people's opinions and get the wrong impression and believe the wrong things.

"But I've just been on the pitch and it is totally fine. The grass is the perfect length and the sun is off the pitch at half-four and we don't kick-off until six o'clock.

"I am sure the water will stay on it and it will be quick and zippy. I think everyone is going to be in for a fantastic game."

As well as allaying fears over the pitch, Hodgson was able to alleviate concerns over the fitness of Danny Welbeck.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be the only absentee due to a knee injury he sustained last week in Miami, with Welbeck available despite sustaining a groin complaint in training on Tuesday.

"Danny is fit," Hodgson said at his pre-match press conference in Manaus.

"I am very fortunate that the only player in the 23 who is unavailable is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain so there can be no complaints."

England were eliminated by Italy two years ago in Hodgson's first major tournament as manager, but he is confident of success this time around.

"We are confident of winning it - bring the game on," a buoyant Hodgson said.

"We believe we have a good chance of winning. We have good team and we are well prepared.

"I am not concerned about the heat and humidity. I think we can not only match their quality but better it."

Source: PA

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