England, Italy could have a pitch of a time

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Brazil spent nearly $300m building the Arena da Amazônia, a stadium with a capacity to seat more than 40,000, situated deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.  The stadium is beautiful, a steel structure designed to reflect the tropical heat, and designed to resemble a traditional basket.

But if you take a peek inside, much of that beauty disappears. On Monday, photos emerged showing the arena’s field. With the first World Cup match scheduled for Saturday, June 14, you’d expect a lush, glowing cover of green grass, sparkling invitingly in the sunshine.

Instead the pitch is reminiscent of a field in December. On which a three-day tournament has just been held. After scraping off the snow with shovels. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the photos show a patchwork of green and brown, a dusty landscape with yellow lines across the field.

Certain sections look better than others, but all in all, it’s not a place you’d want your team to be launching their bid to lift the World Cup trophy. Yet that’s exactly what England and Italy must do. Their kickoff in Manaus is slated for 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, leaving officials with little time to revive the pitch.

In such short tournaments, almost every variable can play a role, from kickoff time to humidity levels to the amount of time passed since the grass was last watered. Players and coaches know this. But that won’t make it any less heartbreaking should yet another player injure himself, while attempting to run on a dry, rutted surface.