World Cup - Paper Round: England pitch sprayed to make it look better

The pitch England will play Italy on is in a right old state; the heat in Manaus is melting tarmac; and reaction from the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia - the main stories making headlines in this morning's newspapers.

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World Cup - Paper Round: England pitch sprayed to make it look better
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A worker drives a lawn mower on the pitch of the Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus (Reuters)

England in pitch concern: Chaos surrounds England's opening game of the World Cup, reports the Daily Mirror, with fears over the state of the pitch and dressing rooms in Manaus. The paper claims that with just 48 hours to go before kick-off at the Arena Da Amazonia, workers sprayed the pitch with a mysterious green substance to try to make it look better. The dressing rooms too are not match ready, nor are the corporate areas of the stadium. England's dressing rooms will not be as ready as the ones to be used by Italy with only the medical rooms appearing to be finished. The report adds that the baths look dirty, there are piles of rubble outside the ground and there are broken fences.

Paper Round's view: Oh dear. We all knew this was coming, but now it's here, it's rather astounding. FIFA maintain that everything will be ready on time but if that is to be the case, they're cutting it mighty fine. But the green spray claim is the icing on the cake. What on earth are they thinking? Surely that's just going to make things even worse? It certainly will be interesting to see how things look when the two teams step out onto the pitch on Saturday night.

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Tarmac-melting heat in Manaus: The Sun's Steven Howard reports from the heart of the Amazon and it seems it's pretty warm there. "If anywhere is a three-shirt-a-day town then it’s this isolated city," he writes before adding that getting out of the taxi at the Arena Amazonia at 11am was like "walking into an oven". If we hadn't already got the picture, he adds that the newly-laid tarmac in the main car park melted under his feet. And that was with just 70 per cent humidity, compared to the previous day when it was 94.

Paper Round's view: It's hot in Manaus. England's players have been told that, and consequently preparing for extreme heat, but it seems that actual experience of being subjected to such temperatures is entirely different from trying to recreate hot conditions in training. Quite how the players are supposed to give their all for 90 minutes is unbelievable; they must be hoping that by the time the sun sets, the temperatures drop a touch.

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And this is how the nation's papers reacted to the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, complete with a pointless opening ceremony, poor refereeing and some surprisingly split opinion on two-goal hero Neymar.

Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail: "Is there anything more pointless than a World Cup opening ceremony? Joining the league against the march of the unstoppable Sepp Blatter perhaps? Trying to find where the money’s gone again? Putting the toothpaste back in the tube? The Olympic flame lighting gala is part of the wonder of the event. Fortunes are spent, the biggest names are hired. Histories unfold and the Arctic Monkeys rock out. By contrast, there will be 18th birthday parties in Essex this weekend that have more wit and imagination than this."

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Paul Hayward in the Telegraph: "After all the acrimony and scandal, the last thing this World Cup needed was for a referee to reward a dive in the penalty box by the host nation’s centre-forward, thus tarnishing a night that should have belonged to Neymar, the elected world beater of this Brazil team. Not long after elbowing Croatia’s Ivica Olic in the face, Neymar decided that his feet needed to do the next bit. The dragged shot that brought the hosts level in this dramatic World Cup opening match was a catharsis for the star and his nation. His disputed penalty, after Fred had dropped like a bag of lead under a feather challenge, was less worthy of celebration. This tournament is ingenuous in finding new ways to alienate its audience."

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Jonathan Wilson in the Guardian: "He was the first Brazilian to score (at the right end) at the World Cup, the first Brazilian to be booked in the World Cup and he also scored a decisive penalty. He trotted round in a corona of attention, always demanding the ball, taking every corner and free-kick, the demands of his country that he should win them the World Cup apparently loud in his ears. Yet this wasn’t a convincing performance, either from Neymar or Brazil."

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Miguel Delaney in the Independent: If the 2014 World Cup is truly to be Neymar’s stage, he stepped on to it in the most commanding fashion. The Brazilian player who carries by far the greatest responsibility did not shirk the challenge. He repeatedly threw down his own. There may be qualms about much of the rest of Brazil’s performance, but there could be none about Neymar. Sure, he was fortunate to get away with the appalling elbow on (Luka Modric), but that only served to illustrate the defiant anger that was so crucial to this display. Few great players, after all, lack that menace. Neymar finally began to show he belongs with such company. This could be the match that properly propels his tournament and career. He certainly produced an electric moment, one of those that made the stadium, the hairs stand up, and then brought an explosion."

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James Ducker in the Times: "Sepp Blatter may not have proven a particularly popular figure among Europeans this week but it would be no surprise, after this encounter, if Croatian football threw its support behind the FIFA president’s new proposals for coaches to challenge referees’ decisions during matches. Brazil put the troubles that have plagued the build-up to this World Cup behind them as Neymar — the country’s poster boy — scored twice and Oscar once to ensure that the host nation got off to a winning start in group A, although it was a victory achieved in the most controversial of circumstances."

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Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail: "This, as Thursday demonstrated, is going to be a World Cup of wild contrasts. A tournament played out against the backdrop of rubber bullets and civil unrest. A chaotic, carnival of football inside every stadium and a growing sense of resentment among those who could not even begin to entertain paying the price of a ticket. While 11 million Brazilians continue to live in abject poverty, the team whose job it is to remind them that this is not just about FIFA suits and excess — but also about something as simple, as beautiful as a game of football — embarked on their journey."

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