Soccer-England's Hodgson has no fears about pitch conditions in Manaus


By David Ljunggren

MANAUS, Brazil, June 13 (Reuters) - England's manager and captain both said on Friday they had no concerns about the state of the pitch in Manaus, where officials are trying to overcome problems ahead of the Group D opener against Italy on Saturday.

The grass in the Amazônia arena, which is suffering from the ferocious heat and humidity in the Amazon region of northwest Brazil, looked to be in better condition on Friday than it had done two days previously.

The sandy area by one goalkeeper's position had largely disappeared but some of the turf was still clearly discoloured.

"I've just been down to see it ... it's fine, it's very flat. I don't see any reason to have any concern about it at all. We'll be perfectly happy to play on that pitch tomorrow night," manager Roy Hodgson told a news conference.

"I think it will suit both teams because it's a pitch where the grass is short ... it will be possible to play good football on it," he said.

FIFA has been fretting about the field for months and sent a special team to Manaus to try to deal with the problem.

A FIFA spokeswoman said the issue was "more to do with aesthetics than with pitch conditions" and expressed confidence there would be no problems on Saturday.

The England team is more focused on overcoming the heat and humidity as well as outfoxing old rivals Italy, who knocked England out of Euro 2012 in the quarter finals.

"We have to be cute and clever ... we're certainly not worried about the pitch or the conditions, it's the same for both teams," said team captain Steven Gerrard.

"I've just been on the pitch and it's totally fine, the grass is a perfect length."

The English squad prepared specially for the heat and played a friendly against Honduras earlier this month in a game in Miami that was disrupted by a thunderstorm.

"I don't think we're concerned about the heat and humidity because we've been training in heat and humidity and we're looking very fit," said Hodgson.

Striker Danny Welbeck is fit to play, the manager said. England's only injured player is winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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