MANAUS, Brazil – The oppressive heat and humidity of Manaus, where the United States will play its crucial second World Cup group game on June 22, came sharply into focus on Saturday following Italy's 2-1 victory over England.
Italian head coach Cesare Prandelli criticized governing body FIFA and the tournament organizing committee for refusing to allow special timeouts to give players a chance to rehydrate in temperatures that remained in the high-80s even late into the evening.
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"In these conditions, it is truly absurd that we can't consider a timeout," Prandelli said. "If we want entertainment, we have to give players the opportunity to produce that performance. To have it like this is an absurdity.
"Entertainment happens when two teams have the power and force to respond to physical strain. Sometimes we saw that tonight, other times they had a hard time in making the effort."
Manaus is the most controversial of the World Cup locations, sitting on the edge of the Amazon jungle and with a climate markedly different from the chillier cities in the south of Brazil.
"All conditions in Manaus are always going to be difficult," England head coach Roy Hodgson said. "It is hot and it is humid and all teams will suffer."
Concerns were raised about the conditions long before the World Cup and during the second half on Saturday, England players Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard appeared to suffer from cramps as humidity levels stayed high and fatigue set in.
The U.S. will play Portugal at Arena Amazonas next Sunday, six days after taking on Ghana in its opening match in Group B, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann has highlighted the handling of that portion of the schedule as one of the most critical aspects of his team's campaign.
Saturday's game will also inevitably lead to speculation as to how teams should best handle their trips to Manaus, which will host four matches during the tournament.
Prandelli decided that his players should only fly in from their base outside Rio de Janeiro late on Friday, whereas England came Thursday morning in an attempt to acclimatize.
"I don't know if it was a tactic at all," Prandelli said. "We planned to come at the last minute. We had trained and worked on the conditions. It was an epic game and we will remember it for the rest of our lives, but physically we were a bit stronger than England."
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England will be glad to see the back of Manaus. The venue created a headache even before the draw was made when Hodgson admitted he was hoping not to be drawn there.
Hodgson backtracked when the draw came out and ultimately worked meticulously to try to adapt to the conditions, but it was not enough.
"Normally you arrive one day before the game; we actually chose to arrive two days before," Hodgson said. "The Italian team arrived late in the evening before the game so we were almost a day and a half before them. And they won the game."
Manaus, the weather and the controversy surrounding it, continues to be a theme of this World Cup.
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