England braced for World Cup jungle mission

England will travel over 4,600 miles, play in the sweltering jungle heat, and face four-time winners Italy as they bid to qualify from the group they hoped to avoid.

Arena Amazonia in Manaus

England were handed one of the toughest groups possible for next year's World Cup when the draw was made in the luxurious holiday resort of Costa Do Sauipe.

Italy, who have won the competition four times, two-time winners Uruguay, and dark horses Costa Rica join England in Group D for the tournament.

There is little wonder that bookmakers lengthened the odds on England clinching the trophy - or that Sir Geoff Hurst, who placed England in Group D, fears he will not be allowed back into the country he fired to World Cup glory in 1966.

And it would appear that FA Chairman Greg Dyke, who ran his index finger across his throat after the draw had been made, believes England have little chance of qualifying from the group.

The FA said Dyke's gesture was made in response to the idea that England will have to take a four-hour flight from their base in Rio to the jungle city of Manaus for their opening fixture against Italy.

"He (Dyke) feels it could've been a lot more difficult," Club England managing director Adrian Bevington said.

"I understand everyone will write about what he did but after the draw there was a bit of banter about it."

Costa Rica's coach Jorge Luis Pinto said his side had been placed in the "Group of Death" while Barbara Moschini, from the Italian delegation, could not hide her unhappiness at being asked to play in Manaus, where humidity levels surpass 80 per cent in June.

She said: "It's a nightmare. It might be a good story for the tournament but not in any other way."

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli wants to introduce a drinks break in each half to help combat the humid conditions.

Hodgson is also in favour.

"We'll back that," the England manager said.

"Any proposals anyone has that are sensible, then we would support. I think it's going to be necessary, I really do.

"I know the Italians intend to bring this up and they'll certainly have our backing."

One thing Hodgson has in his favour is that he will not be facing a South American team in Manaus.

He also knows the local kick-off time of 9pm will be advantageous as temperatures will be much cooler.

Broadcasters may lobby to move the fixture to an earlier time as it would be 2am by the time the match hit the screens in the UK, but England do not want that to happen.

Bevington added: "Playing at 9pm in Manaus is clearly helpful from our side and from a football point of view.

"We can't deny that it's better to play in Manaus later in the day."

England confirmed they will be based in Rio for the duration of their stay.

After the game against Italy on June 14, the Three Lions take on Uruguay in Sao Paolo five days later before visiting Belo Horizonte for their final group game against Costa Rica on June 24.



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