So England have been drawn into a tough group, consisting of two South American outfits and a historical European giat in Italy. Two of their games (Uruguay, Costa Rica) will be played in the southern territories of Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte. However their first match will be played in the Amazon jungle.....quite literally.
England will travel 1,777 miles from their base in Rio to Manaus, a Amazonian city who's's temperatures reach 30C with a humidity around 80%, now that is incredibly hot. In fact it's almost unfair to ask players to perform in that kind of heat. Luckily for England, they face fellow European outfit Italy in this game, and while the Italians may be used to slightly warmer weather, it was important to avoid a South American team in a South American climate.
The problem is that Roy Hodgson already commented this week on Manaus, and highlighted his desire to avoid the venue. Of course this upset the mayor of the city, who replied by saying that Roy Hodgson and England were not welcome in the city after they wanted to avoid it. I think there may have been some intent lost in translation here as the Brazilians seem to have taken offence to a very logical suggestion by Roy.
Unfortunately this likely means the England team will be given a little frosty welcome when they travel north for their opening game. However a prickly mayor is the least of their worries having to take on the Italians in a climate like the one they face. It's also the only really late kick-off for us here in Britain, with it starting at 2:00am, so we suggest getting the day off work booked for the 16th of June.
It's not going to be easy for England, but we now know the task at hand and we have 6 months to prepare for it. With the heat, I would seriously consider taking a lot of youthful players with bags of energy. The last thing we want is a repeat of the 4-1 defeat to Germany when we faced heat in the 2010 World Cup, in that match it looked as though we were running through mud....I'm looking at you Gareth Barry, Matt Upson, James Milner...heck the lot of you.