The World Cup draw is on Friday and while most of the build-up to it has been focused on who might land in the group of death or get lucky with easy opponents, England manager Roy Hodgson is more concerned with a different aspect of it: the venues. The tournament's Brazilian host cities are spread throughout the expansive country, making long-haul travel and differing climates from venue to venue a concern for the first time since the 1994 World Cup in the United States. And to Roy Hodgson, that is more troubling than the speculation over which teams might be healthy and in top form seven months from now.
Said Hodgson (via the PA):
"[Y]ou always hope that the draw is going to be kind to you in terms of where you are going to be asked to play. There are venues in Brazil that will be harder to play in than others.
"Maybe in terms of the teams you are drawn against some on paper look harder than others, but I'm more concerned if anything by the venues than by the teams we draw.
"All discussion about teams and their strengths is based not on speculation, but we don't know. We don't know how good Argentina are, we would all think 'Blimey, Argentina are strong', but we don't know that.
"They might be no stronger than Chile. The good thing is that if we get Argentina, for example, we will be there and have a chance to play them and believe we can go out and beat them."
It's an important distinction to remember come Friday. A lot can happen between now and June. By the time the World Cup rolls around, teams that seem formidable now might not be so intimidating. But the venues and their long or short distance from each other will remain constant, as will their respective climates. For example, a flight from the hot and humid northernmost city (Manaus) in the Amazon jungle to the mild, southernmost (Porto Alegre) city on the coast takes a little under five hours and one team in Group E will have to make that trip.
Of course, World Cup scheduling and travel arrangements aren't as fun to talk about as whether the draw makes it clear that FIFA hates Cristiano Ronaldo, so this aspect will likely be overlooked by many draw watchers who won't be tasked with actually making the trips. Still, it's something worth keeping in mind while people pick balls out of pots.
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- Roy Hodgson