England kick off with a rumble in the jungle
Playing the opening game of the World Cup against Italy in the Amazon jungle might easily be viewed as case of ‘I’m an England celebrity, get me out of here’.
But the England manager and TV pundits alike were keen to look on the bright side of life after being paired with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
Whilst Manaus in the far north of Brazil was a venue Roy Hodgson was hoping to avoid, the upside of the draw was that England will be playing a fellow European team.
Yes it will be hot, yes the humidity will be ridiculous (99 per cent, we are led to believe), but as Hodgson says: “It will be the same for both teams so we are in the same boat.”
Confirmation of the draw seemed to produce a sharp intake of breath, but this is not exactly the group of death and there are plenty of positives to be drawn.
An initial daunting prospect may not actually prove to be so bad and Glenn Hoddle, a former England manager of course, put things into some sort of sensible context.
Hoddle said: “I think the draw may have done us a favour because expectations will not be as high as if we had an easier group. There are a lot of positives to take from this draw.”
Namely, getting the ‘rumble in the jungle’ out of the way early on and then playing two games – in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte – which are in touching distance of England’s Rio base.
That’s certainly the view of the England boss who added: “It’s a tough group, there’s no doubt about that. But a couple of things have worked in our favour.
“For the first game we are playing in difficult conditions against another European team and then we have short trips for the next two games, so that can work to our advantage.
“Before the draw there were not many scenarios where you would be jumping for joy, so we take what we have got. To get a tough one to open doesn’t surprise me.
“We will be up against three excellent teams but we will go into each game believing we can win them. It’s an interesting group which I’m sure will produce three exciting games.”
No talk yet of winning the tournament, and why should there be, but Sky pundit Alan Smith – not always the most exuberant of fellas – did his best to put a positive spin on things.
He sees the game against Uruguay, Luis Suarez et al, as a key clash and says: “We know all about the quality of Suarez, but Uruguay have an ageing back line we can get at. We have to be optimistic.”
And so say all of us.
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