Hodgson's World Cup plans hang in balance
England may have to go back to drawing board if drawn to play in far-flung host city
ROY HODGSON has admitted that England's long-term plans to base themselves in Rio de Janeiro at next summer's World Cup finals could yet be torn up if today's draw sees them playing group games in the more far-flung Brazilian host cities.
It has long been England's plan to base their squad at the Royal Tulip hotel on the Sao Conrado beach and train at the military base of Urca, by Sugarloaf Mountain. However, the England manager confirmed yesterday that he was "open to all things", with 16 different possible combinations when it comes to the three venues at which his team could play their group games.
While the English FA has been working on a Rio base for around two years – Hodgson first visited Brazil in the summer of 2012 – there are memories of the huge travel logistics that plagued their four games at Euro 2012.
It was estimated that the England players took flights totalling more than 5,000 miles on the round trips from Krakow to Kiev and Donetsk over the course of their four games in the two cities. Should England, for instance, be drawn in Group A from Pot 4 today, they would face combined round trips from Rio to Natal, Manaus and Brasilia of more than 7,000 miles.
The FA's position has always been that there is little or no chance of changing the base and, while there is still determination to stay in Rio no matter what, Hodgson's comments revealed that outcome is by no means set in stone.
Asked about the possibility of changing base, he said: "We are open to all things. I hope we do not have to change – we have spent a lot of time on the choice of hotel and choice of training ground. It would be a pity if we have got to move, but we have an open mind at the moment."
The FA has taken a proactive approach to finding England an ideal base since it was left lagging behind in 2010 for the South Africa World Cup, where the prime sites in Pretoria were taken by Argentina. England ended up in the disastrously remote Royal Bafokeng complex, where boredom and discontent festered under Fabio Capello's strict daily regime. The FA has explored possible base camps in Recife and Belo Horizonte and judged Rio to be the most practical option, given how little of their fate they can control once in the draw.
Once the draw is made, officials will visit the venues to secure hotels for the night before the games. Again, there were problems in South Africa with hotels at game venues, especially for the round of 16 tie against Germany in Bloemfontein. The accommodation there was likened to a "1950s holiday camp" by one of the touring party.
The group for England to avoid in today's draw, which gets under way at 4.0, is Group A, which will throw up huge challenges if they are drawn into it from either Pot 4 – Natal, Manaus and Brasilia – or Pot 2, which one European team will be moved into.
In that case, they will be obliged to play in Sao Paulo, Manaus and Recife, more than 6,000 miles in round trips from Rio. There is unlikely to be an immediate decision taken on whether the FA changes its plans surrounding the Rio base in the light of an unfavourable draw. (© Independent News Service)
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