GARY Cahill has seen enough blood and tears during his England career, so won’t mind the sweat when he goes into battle against Italy in the jungle heat of Manaus tonight.
The former Wanderers defender, now a key player in Roy Hodgson’s back four, insists every possible preparation has been made to allow the players to cope with the Amazonian climate – which could mean temperatures of 30deg C and humidity of 90 per cent.
England have spent time in the Algarve, Miami and Rio in a bid to acclimatise to the expected hot and humid conditions, while the squad have been taking malaria tablets since Tuesday.
Centre-back Cahill has so far avoided any ill-effects from the medication and has been impressed by the amount of preparation that has gone into the opening game.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I have been told, obviously, about the humidity.
“That was the first thing we were all made aware of, but that’s what we’ve been training for and preparing for in the last couple of weeks. That was the main thing really.
“I think we’ve prepared the best we possibly could in the couple of weeks we’ve had.
“We did the hot-weather training, been in hot climates, done the heat chambers, worn extra layers of clothing.
“So we’ve prepared as best we possibly could. Obviously, being English players we’re not used to those conditions but in the three weeks we’ve had we have done all we possibly can.”
Concerns over the pitch continue into match-day, with groundsmen at the 39,118-seater Arena de Amazonias admitting an outbreak of fungus, caused by conditions in the flood-hit zone, is responsible for the poor playing surface.
Remedial work is ongoing but for Cahill, who missed out on the last two major tournaments because of illness and injury, it is an achievement just being in contention for such a high-pressured game.
The centre-half was ruled out of contention for the last World Cup because of a blood clot found before Wanderers’ home game against Fulham in February, 2010.
He was an England regular by the time Euro 2012 came round but the defender – who had by then signed for Chelsea for £8million – was ruled out with a broken jaw sustained in the final warm-up friendly against Belgium.
“For me, this is huge, selfishly,” Cahill said.
“I missed out last time. It’s my first major tournament with England, so I can’t wait.
“I can’t wait to get started. Obviously I am privileged to be part of it and I am just really looking forward to it.
“The blow at the Euros was huge for me at that time, just before we were about to leave for the tournament, so hopefully I can be a big part of things this time around.
“I have worked hard since then. I feel confident, I feel like I am in a good place physically.
“I am just looking forward to it now.
“We’ve been out here a few weeks now, we’ve prepared, we’ve trained well, so we’re just ready to get cracking.”