England's first match was never going to go smoothly, was it? And now it seems that this will literally be true, since the turf for the Three Lions' World Cup opener looks bumpier than a walnut that's been 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.
No less an authority than the head groundsman at the Arena da Amazonia has admitted that the pitch to be used for England's match against Italy is, well, not going to be a good one.
Carlos Botella has conceded the obvious: that the brown, spotty pitch is actually in terrible condition just days before England's opening World Cup match in the city.
"Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape," Botella told the Daily Telegraph.
"We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible, but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend."
Manaus was already the host city most feared by World Cup teams given its extreme heat and far-flung placement in the middle of the rainforest, but now there are much more visually striking issues.
There have been plenty of structural issues with the stadia in Brazil, but there had been little talk of the quality of the pitches up until this point. Now, it seems, a very clear problem has occurred.
Another look at Manaus stadium ahead of the World Cup. Head groundsman: “Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape." pic.twitter.com/0j1oNyyY5b
— FourFourTweet (@FourFourTweet) June 12, 2014
— David Jack (@DJack_Journo) June 11, 2014
The grass, as reported by Reuters, is threadbare in places and discoloured in others. Near one goalkeeper's area patches of sand could clearly be seen poking through.
"The pitch in Manaus has been undergoing treatment in preparation for the World Cup. Over the last three months, mitigation procedures have been put in place and there continues to be significant improvement," said FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer.
"Pitch experts from FIFA and the local operating committee are satisfied that the pitch will be ready for training and the matches, and have been based in Manaus to ensure that all proper procedures are in place."
England meet Italy in their Group D opener on Saturday. Jose Melo, the governor of Amazonas state where Manaus is located, said the grass was suffering in the high humidity.
"I was told today that there is a little problem with the environment and the pitch and we are taking care of this problem. Of course it won't be a problem for the game," he said when pressed by Reuters about the state of the pitch.
- Sports & Recreation