FIFA has switched the starting times of seven World Cup matches, including the USA-Portugal game on June 22 in the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus.
FIFPro, the international soccer players’ union, had pressed FIFA to avoid the earliest kickoffs in the hottest and most humid weather.
After FIFA declined to change the 2-year-old schedule, FIFPro suggested that the governing body ”considers the demands of TV companies of greater importance than the health and safety of the players.”
The USA-Portugal game initially was set for 3 p.m. local time. Two other games in Manaus – England vs. Italy on June 14 and Cameroon vs. Croatia on June 18 – also were pushed back three hours. The England-Italy switch means Ivory Coast vs. Japan will now start at 10 p.m. local time in the tropical coastal climate of Recife.
On June 18, Cameroon-Croatia flips kickoff slots with Spain vs. Chile, which now starts at 4 p.m. 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 USA-Portugal move forced two other changes. Belgium vs. Russia will start at 1 p.m. local time in Rio de Janeiro, instead of 7 p.m., which would have required European viewers to stay up well beyond midnight.
England manager Roy Hodgson and Club England managing director Adrian Bevington made it clear that they preferred to play at 9 p.m. local time, but FIFA has gone against their wishes. World football’s governing body claim a 6pm kick-off shares "similar conditions" to a 9 p.m. one.
Hodgson admitted he had no control over FIFA’s decision following the draw, but stated his preference for a 9 p.m. kickoff time. The England manager said just after being put in Group D: "At the moment the kickoff time is at 9 p.m. and that’s what I’m working on. We’re happy that it’s then, of course, but it’s out of our hands. Our views will be taken into account. How much resistance we can make I really don’t know."
Bevington, who was part of the England party in Salvador, said after the draw: "That’s something for TV and FIFA and we have no control over it. "But playing at 9pm in Manaus is clearly helpful from our side and from a football point of view. We can’t deny that it’s better to play in Manaus later in the day."