Hodgson & Gerrard allay Manaus pitch fears ahead of England’s World Cup opener

Both manager and captain 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

England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard have moved to dismiss reports of a sub-standard pitch at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus ahead of their World Cup opener against Italy on Saturday.

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 city.

The pitch appeared to be in much better condition than reported during England’s open training session on Friday evening, and both Gerrard and Hodgson insist there will be no problem.

“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,” Hodgson told the media. “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 pitch, 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 beleive 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.”

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

Much had been made of the tropical conditions in Manaus, situated in the heart of the Amazon jungle, but Gerrard is confident he and his team-mates have prepared as well as they possibly can in hot climates in Portugal and the United States of America.

“We have to be cute and clever and take the conditions into consideration but we’re not worried about the pitch or the conditions, it’s the same for both teams.”

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