World Cup 2014 - England v Italy: 'Even Brazilian players struggle to cope with the heat of Manaus'

England are not the only ones who will find it tough to play in the rainforest, where a change of style is essential

It is one of the most oft-repeated questions in the lead-up to England's World Cup campaign, and it became inevitable once last December's draw put the jungle city of Manaus on the itinerary of Roy Hodgson's team. The issue, of course, is this: just how will they cope with the conditions deep inside the Amazon?

If there is one Englishman out there with a better idea than most it is Seth Burkett. The 23-year-old Loughborough University student and England Under-21 futsal player spent the 2009-10 season as a professional footballer in Brazil and still remembers the shock of his first match. "It is so humid, it is like playing in a sauna," he tells the Independent. "I had never experienced that so it was a real struggle to breathe. About 10 minutes into the game I genuinely thought I was going to collapse."

Burkett played for Sorriso Esporte Clube in the central state of Mato Grosso, an experience he recounts in his illuminating book The Boy in Brazil. He estimates that it took "about two months to adapt" fully to playing and training in temperatures that rose as high as 48C. "Sorriso was 1,000 miles south of Manaus, in cleared rainforest. Even my Brazilian team-mates found it very, very hot – the guys from Sao Paulo found it overwhelming as well. It was the humidity. I presume Manaus will be even more intense. It will be very hard for England but if they can adapt, they will be fine in Sao Paulo [where they play Uruguay in their second game]."

While England's players will be given individually tailored recovery drinks to help with the loss of nutrients through sweat, Burkett's club offered more rudimentary refuelling. "I had to have a lot of salt," he explains. His daily meal of rice and beans included "very salty beef" and he would also take salt tablets. England players were using salt tablets back at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico when Martin Peters lost 13lb during a match against Romania.

The question of dealing with the heat goes back as far as the 1950 World Cup in Brazil when, as Tom Finney later recalled in his autobiography, "most of us needed extra oxygen to get by".

Professor Stephen Hawking cited the problem last week in his formula for England winning the World Cup, which noted that a five-degree rise in temperature was expected to reduce their chances by 59 per cent. According to Michael Davison, a specialist in football medicine: "If the body is overheating, the brain will push out a message to say 'don't over-exercise here'. It's as much mental as physical."

And so he sees the logic behind Hodgson's squad training in extra layers as they have been doing. "They can just make the players feel as uncomfortable as possible to limit the shock," adds Davison, managing director of the Isokinetic Medical Group, a Fifa medical centre of excellence. That said, he does raise the concern that, after cool weather in Portugal and storms on their arrival in Miami, it was only last night against Ecuador that England really experienced for the first time conditions similar to those that await in Manaus where they could face 30C heat and 80 per cent humidity for the opening Group D fixture against Italy on 14 June.

The experience of a sweltering World Cup match day is something that Danny Mills, England right-back at the 2002 finals, recalls vividly from that campaign in Japan. He says: "You have to get as much fluid in as you possibly can because with dehydration concentration is the first thing that goes. We had ice jackets at half-time. They were like life jackets full of ice, just to try and cool the core temperature down. Your feet are booming; because they are hot, they are squeezed in your boots. But it's same for both teams."

And England's biggest problem in their Shizuoka quarter-final defeat against Brazil was, he adds, something else: "The fact was we didn't keep ball as well as they did and we had to run around after it."

It is a view shared by Chris Waddle, who was in the England squad which stopped off in Colorado en route to Mexico in 1986 to acclimatise to the high altitude but found the tactical adjustment equally testing. "We had a lot of technical players but found it hard to try and slow a game," he says. "It is more of a mental thing with England. The intentions are there but when you start playing a bit more slowly it doesn't feel right. It's as if you are not playing to your strengths."

England may just have to go native, according to Burkett. He remembers being told to slow down by Brazilian team-mates when he began bombing forward. "They would be saying, 'What are you doing? Wait for us!' It is a slower game and that is the way you have to play."

'The Boy in Brazil: Living, Loving and Learning in the Land of Football' by Seth Burkett is published by Floodlit Dreams at £6.99

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea