Manaus pitch in 'bad shape' for England's Italy clash
THE groundsman responsible for the pitch at the Manaus stadium which will host England's clash with Italy on Saturday, has admitted that the playing surface was in "bad shape" and would not be much better when the game takes place.
England arrive in Manaus today and plan to send an official to inspect the surface, which looked dry, patchy and marked in pictures taken over the past 48 hours.
Carlos Botella, head groundsman for the Royal Verd company which is responsible for the turf at Manaus and six other World Cup stadia, has conceded that the game on Saturday, which will take place in severe heat and humidity, will be played out on a desperately inadequate surface.
He said his groundsmen were carrying out emergency measures to try to improve the surface and blamed the remote location of the host city for the problems.
"Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape," Botella said. "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.
"Yesterday we put fertiliser, and we'll increase the fertilising process with biostimulants and seeds to try to get the most out of the grass."
Royal Verd installed the drainage system and planted the grass at the $229m stadium and has worked with local contractors to maintain the surface.
Botella said that preparing the pitch had been difficult due to access issues, recent rain and problems with algae when the grass was laid. The city is in the heart of the world's biggest rainforest and reachable only by plane or boat.
"The maintenance has been complicated in Manaus. There are no roads, so all the machinery and materials had to be brought by ship," he said. "There's no fertiliser, no seeds. Everything has been complicated."
The English FA was last night urgently seeking information from FIFA. England officials insisted that the pitch was in good condition when Roy Hodgson visited the venue in February.
Although Hodgson and his squad will make the four-hour flight from Rio to Manaus today, they plan to train only in a gym at their hotel. The England players were due to train on the pitch tomorrow.
The FIFA-allocated training pitch in Manaus that England had been offered for use was not finished in February and there remain doubts over its suitability. England's decision to use a hotel gym and worries over the pitch raise question marks over the decision to travel to Manaus this morning.
Italy will not arrive in Manaus until tomorrow after holding a full training session today at their Portobello Resort base in Mangaratiba.
Wayne Rooney is not concerned by the prospect of a bad pitch, insisting: "It's the same for ourselves and Italy, so we'll both have to deal with that."
Danny Welbeck has not given up hope of playing in the Italy game after a scan revealed that he has not sustained a serious injury. But Hodgson is still formulating a Plan B involving Raheem Sterling in case Welbeck does not make it.
Welbeck missed training yesterday after limping out of Tuesday's sesion feeling his right thigh. An initial scan did not show any tears or lasting damage and Welbeck still hopes that he can recover from the strain in time to play on Saturday.
With Welbeck missing, Hodgson took the chance to look at his options of who would play behind striker Daniel Sturridge. (© Daily Telegraph, London)