World Cup kick-offs lead to heat fears

Some 2014 World Cup teams will have to play afternoon matches at tropical venues in Brazil after kick-off times were announced last night.

Most of the 64 games will take place in the afternoon, which is unlikely to be a problem in the cooler south but could subject players to searing heat in the tropical north and north-east.

The months of June and July represent the winter in the south, but conditions are tropical further north. With most of Brazil three hours behind GMT, the times are favourable for 
European television viewers who will be able to watch matches in the evening.

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Asian viewers must stay up until the middle of the night, but those who will suffer the most are the footballers. Two matches in the north-eastern city of Natal have been scheduled for 1pm local time (4pm GMT), as have two in nearby Recife and two in Salvador. Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, will stage two games at 3pm local time and one at 4pm. The final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro will be played at 4pm on 13 July.

The start times were approved by Fifa’s executive committee at a meeting yesterday. “When defining the kick-off times, the following criteria were taken into consideration: equitable distribution across all teams, equitable rest periods for teams in the same group, temperature in venues, global TV market considerations, fan travel logistics, flight times and accommodation,” said world football’s governing body in a statement.

Fifa has been criticised in the past for putting television interests ahead of the players. The 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico and the 1994 finals in the United States were often played in searing heat. The toughest matches are likely to be a Group A fixture in Manaus on 18 June and a Group G game at the same venue on 22 June, both at 3pm.

A torrid afternoon also awaits the teams who meet in Natal in Group A on 13 June and in Group D on 24 June, both at 1pm, and in Group G in Salvador on 16 June and Group F on 25 June, also at 1pm.

All matches in the knockout rounds will be played at 1pm or 5pm local time.