Welcome To The Jungle...It's Hot Here...

Our Matthew Stanger is in the World Cup's wildest location with England fans that don't care about the heat and locals who think the English are always complaining...

Last Updated: 13/06/14 at 14:10 Post Comment

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Manaus has been gripped by World Cup fever ever since it was named as a host city, but the party started in earnest on Thursday as Brazil kicked off the tournament with a victory, shortly after England touched down in the rainforest. The streets were deserted for the two hours in which Neymar wowed the world with his incredible talent, but burst back into life with bangers and fireworks at full-time. The squares were a sea of yellow, making it easy to spot the sunburnt faces of England supporters dotted around the bars near the Opera House.

There is plenty of optimism among the Three Lions fans who have made the arduous journey to the World Cup's wildest location. It is perhaps a lot easier to be pessimistic about the team's chances at home, but for those who have travelled one thousand miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean on the four-hour flight from Sao Paulo, expectation is justified. "We've come here to see them win," said a Charlton fan proudly wearing his replica shirt. "I don't care about the heat."

Roy Hodgson is unlikely to share his sentiments. The intense humidity is the first thing on the England manager's mind when he leaves the air-conditioned relief of the hotel on Friday, and the last thing on his mind as he jumped into a taxi from the main plaza late last night. Hodgson was joined by Gary Neville and Ray Lewington as he soaked up the celebratory atmosphere following Brazil's victory and looked relaxed, if a little exhausted after a long day on the road and in the air.

It is not a surprise that England will fly back to their base in Rio immediately after the game on Saturday. When asked about his hopes for the tournament before the group stage draw, Hodgson described Manaus as a venue "ideally to avoid", pointing to its tropical nature. Despite taking back those comments after fierce criticism from the city's mayor, he will privately wish England had never been sent to the rainforest.

The players will enjoy their adventure to Manaus, but England's problems have been made worse by the state of the playing surface at the Arena da Amazonia. There was a friendly exchange between locals and England fans on Thursday evening, with the tourists wanting to know why the pitch isn't ready just a few days before kick-off. 'England are always complaining', was the response.

Hodgson is set to meet journalists on Friday afternoon (around 10pm, UK time), to discuss his possible team selection following an open training session. There is much debate over whether Wayne Rooney should start and what roles should be handed to Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, but there is a sense that England would be happy to take a draw and return to Rio to focus on the rest of the tournament. Given the conditions they are set to face and the heavy pitch in the Arena da Amazonia, let's hope they have enough gas left in the tank for Uruguay and Luis Suarez.

Matthew Stanger - he's in Brazil, you know

Can't help imagining Roy Hodgson, Gary Neville and Ray Lewington as three teachers on a school trip abroad during "free time", in which they give the players a lecture about staying in threes and not wandering off, before relax by sitting outside a cafe down a side street one of them had a tip about.
- quoththeraven

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