Soccer

FIFA switches late England-Italy WCup kickoff time

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COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP)

FIFA switched the scheduled kickoff times of seven World Cup matches on Saturday after meeting with broadcasters, having refused earlier requests made by the FIFPro union to protect players' health.

The main change involves England vs. Italy which was due to start at 9 p.m. local time (0100 GMT, 0300 Central European Time).

That high-profile match will now kick off three hours earlier at 6 p.m. local time (2200 GMT; 0000 CET) in the hot and humid Amazonian jungle city of Manaus.

Two more games in Manaus - Portugal vs. United States and Cameroon vs. Croatia - have been moved from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

FIFPro, the international footballers' union, had pressed FIFA not to have the earliest kickoffs in the hottest and most humid weather conditions.

After FIFA declined midweek to alter the two-year-old match schedule, FIFPro suggested ''that the world's governing football body considers the demands of TV companies of greater importance than the health and safety of the players.''

The changes to seven of the 64-match schedule include three later starts in the hottest conditions.

The England-Italy switch on the opening Saturday, June 14, means Ivory Coast vs. Japan will now start at 10 p.m. local time (0100 GMT) in the tropical coastal climate of Recife.

On Wednesday, June 18, Cameroon-Croatia flips kickoff slots with Spain vs. Chile, which now starts at 4 p.m. (1900 GMT) in Rio de Janeiro. That means Spain's appearance at the Maracana stadium will now start in Spanish prime time instead of midnight back home.

The Portugal-US move forced two other changes on Sunday, June 22.

Belgium vs. Russia will start at 1 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) in Rio de Janeiro, instead of 7 p.m., which would have required European viewers to stay up well beyond midnight.

South Korea vs. Algeria was moved to 4 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) in the coolest, most southern World Cup city of Porto Alegre from 1 p.m.

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