PE pitch still rough ahead of quarters - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

PE pitch still rough ahead of quarters

28/06/2010 09:03:57 AM Comments (0)

Ground staff at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will work nearly 24 hours a day for the next five days trying to ensure that two of the best teams at the World Cup won't have to play on an inferior pitch.

Brazil and the Netherlands are on course for a quarter-final on Friday at Port Elizabeth if they get past Chile and Slovakia respectively.

The rain-damaged pitch is being heated with giant warming lamps and a tarp protects the center of the field and penalty areas. The weather wasn't helping Sunday, but sunshine is forecast to replace intermittent light rain and heavy cloud cover Monday and Tuesday.

Rain fell during most of the second half of Uruguay's 2-1 second-round win over South Korea on Saturday. The pitch was already in rough shape following three days of rain about 10 days ago, and took a further battering when England beat Slovenia 1-0 last Wednesday.

"The pitch isn't good," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said.

"The conditions aren't the greatest, but it's the same for both teams."

England captain Steven Gerrard also said the pitch wasn't in great shape, but added he "had certainly played on worse."

On Sunday, six stadium workers were replacing giant divots in the turf. The heat lamps were placed at the north end of the pitch where the stadium is in shade for much of the day.

That end was particularly hard-hit when England dominated Slovenia in the first half of their match and chunks were missing after the opening 45 minutes. Workers routinely carry shovels and sand to the pitch after pre-match warm-ups and at halftime.

"I've been here since 4 am and we've been working 19- to 20-hour days," stadium worker John Thanda said Sunday. "We just need some help with the weather."

At Port Elizabeth, only teams involved in the first two group matches - Greece,South Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal - were allowed to train on the main stadium pitch.

Since then, eight teams have been forced to hold pre-match training sessions at their home bases or at a local university in Port Elizabeth. That will likely be the scenario for the quarterfinal too.

Last week, FIFA said cancelling training sessions for teams at some World Cup stadiums was "normal procedure" at a major tournament to protect pitches.

It said the decisions were "taken by the technical experts who know best what the conditions of the pitch are like."

World Cup regulations call for teams to be allowed a 60-minute practice on the eve of a match to familiarise themselves with a new venue. However, FIFA can cancel sessions in adverse weather or if the playing surface is "not in good condition or the training session would negatively affect" its quality.

After Friday's quarterfinal, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will host the playoff for third place on July 10, its eighth World Cup match.

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