England & Italy rubbish pitch fears ahead of Manaus’ World Cup opener

The coaches of both countries insist there will be no problems with the playing surface at the Arena da Amazonia following reports of barren and uneven patches in certain sections

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and midfielder Antonio Candreva have followed England counterparts Roy Hodgson and Steven Gerrard in rubbishing reports of a sub-standard pitch at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus.

Suggestions that groundstaff had covered bald areas of the playing surface using green spray paint were circulated in the media in both countries earlier in the week, while pictures emerged of bumpy and uneven sections.

Officials from Fifa and local authorities played down any issues and insisted work would be done up until the last minute to ensure everything would be ready in time for the first match in the Amazon city.

The pitch appeared to be in much better condition than reported during open training sessions for both nations on Friday evening, and all four men presented to the media insist that they were given false impressions by erroneous reports.

“Regarding the pitch, the turf had been described to me as being in very bad condition but it’s actually in very good condition,” Prandelli said.

Candreva, who replaced Gianluigi Buffon at the press conference after the goalkeeper picked up a “very slight ankle twist” in training, echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“It’s a beautiful stadium, the local people are very enthusiastic and the pitch is very close to the fans. The pitch had been described very negatively but I actually think that the turf is in very good condition to be able to play an excellent game.”

England players train on the pitch at the Arena da Amazonia, Manaus

England boss Roy Hodgson also praised the pitch, insisting that it will facilitate an open, exciting match.

“I’ve just been on it now, it’s fine, it’s very flat, I don’t see any reason to be concerned about it at all,” he said. “I think it will play well and suit both teams. The grass is short and it will be possible to play good football on it.”

When Three Lions captain Gerrard was asked about the newspaper reports regarding the problems, he responded: “With experience I have learned to wait until I can get on the pitch myself, it’s easy to get the wrong impression and believe the wrong thing.

“I’ve just been on it and it’s perfectly fine. The sun is off the pitch at 16:30 and we’re kicking off at 18:00 [on Saturday]. It’s very zippy and it will make for a fantastic game.”

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