Europeans aiming to conquer new world
Heat, humidity and the huge travellling distances involved will make the World Cup in Brazil a huge task for any visiting team
Brazil’s David Luiz celebrates after Neymar scored his team’s opening goal against Japan during the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brasilia, Brazil. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Roy Hodgson’s “Jungle fear” might have been slightly overstated by the British media this week but he can be forgiven for suggesting he is as wary of the venues England are drawn to play in this afternoon as he is of the other teams.
Even the strongest of the European contenders will make the journey to Brazil next summer wary of the challenges that lie in store and aware that no team from this side of the Atlantic has won the competition on that side of it.
Seven times now the World Cup has been staged in North or South America and seven times it has been won by teams from the south. The travel used to be a bigger part of it. When the event was held for the very first time, back in 1930, in Uruguay (or Montevideo to be more precise for all the games took place in the city) three European sides travelled together aboard the one ship, swinging by Brazil to pick their side up en route. The journey took nearly two weeks.
This time, several teams from this part of the world are expected to stop off in the United States to play lucrative friendlies en route so there may be almost as long between farewell games back at home and touchdown in Brazil. But it is in the host nation itself that the real challenges lie with heat, humidity and huge amounts of internal travel to be endured.
South Africa had three venues in or around Johannesburg but a jaunt down to, say, Cape Town, involved a journey of around 780 miles. That sort of trip will be run of the mill in Brazil where, when team bases get taken into account, the amount of travel required may be really gruelling.
The USA, for instance, will be based in Sao Paulo, and could face anything up 8,800 miles on buses and planes if things go badly this afternoon. Just one return trip to Manaus, though, where the average June temperature (outside the stadium) is 26.4 degrees but daily highs routinely run in the low thirties, and humidity is expected to be 99 per cent, will cover almost 3,500 miles.
The South Americans will not be immune to the discomfort but they may find some aspects of it more tolerable than, say, the Danes with even the altitude of some venues – around half are in the 750 to 1,150 metres up range – potentially taking a toll on tired teams more used to playing at sea level.
“I believe that we have a very good national team,” observed former West Germany striker Karl Heinz Rummenigge when asked about his nation’s prospects recently, “and I think that we have a very good chance in Brazil but it’s not easy to play there for Europeans.