MANAUS, Brazil (AP) Claudio Marchisio wasn’t hallucinating. It was hot at the Arena da Amazonia during the first World Cup match to be played in the Brazilian rainforest.
Marchisio and his Italian teammates were able to adapt to the steamy conditions well enough to beat England 2-1 in Group D, but both coaches complained about the heat and humidity after the game.
And there are still three more World Cup games coming to the jungle before the group stage ends.
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Marchisio scored the first goal in Saturday’s match, but he said it was difficult to play for 90 minutes with the temperature at 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) and humidity at 61 percent.
”At times it felt like having hallucinations due to the heat,” Marchisio said after the match. ”But this squad showed great character and held up in the final minutes.”
Many have questioned the decision to stage matches in Manaus, an industrial city on the Amazon River that nearly always has warm temperatures and high humidity. And although England seemed to hold up better late in the match, still creating chances all the way to the end, it was Mario Balotelli that scored the winning goal in the 50th minute.
The Italians may have earned the three points and set themselves up for a spot in the second round, but Italy coach Cesare Prandelli questioned the decision to forego official breaks that would have given players a chance to rest and rehydrate.
”It was ridiculous not to have timeouts. We had to slow down our pace to regain our breaths. It was impossible to maintain the intensity,” Prandelli said. ”Thankfully the referee had the sensibility to interrupt the match every now and then. But it’s just absurd.”
The next teams that will have to deal with the conditions are Croatia and Cameroon. They play their Group A match at the Arena da Amazonia on Wednesday, and both need points to have any hope of advancement after losing their opening matches.
The United States will then face Portugal in Manaus on June 22, and Honduras will play Switzerland on June 25.
All six teams will have to get accustomed to the conditions, and drink plenty of liquids, if they expect to avoid problems and play World Cup-level football for a full 90 minutes in Manaus.
”Quite a few of our players cramped up,” England coach Roy Hodgson said. ”It obviously has to do with hydration.”
FIFA uses the ”Wet Bulb Globe Temperature” to determine when official breaks should be added, and says the WGBT must be above 32 degrees C (90 degrees F) for cooling breaks to be considered.
FIFPro, the international union representing professional football players, said that number was too high.
”There’s enough medical evidence to support it should be closer to 28 degrees (82 degrees F),” FIFPro said Sunday. ”In addition, when and how often cooling breaks are introduced is just as relevant. FIFA’s heat policy simply does not pay enough attention to detail and it falls well short based on available medical data.”
Whatever the temperature is on Wednesday, it will be Cameroon and Croatia that have to adapt.