To play or not to play his superstars?
Brazil coach Dunga voiced concerns about the state of the Sports Hub stadium pitch, ahead of his team’s glamour friendly clash with Japan on Tuesday.
The state of the field has been the subject of fierce debate, with the Football Association of Singapore declaring last Thursday that while it was “playable”, it was also “far short of international playing standards”.
The brand new Sports Hub itself was completed earlier this year at the cost of $1 billion and the 55,000 capacity stadium is sold out for the game in what will be the first true test of its state-of-the-art pitch.
On Monday, Dunga watched his players train for the first time on the pitch, two days after a gruelling 2-0 win over arch-rivals Argentina in smog-filled Beijing on Saturday.
While the grass looked in better condition than it did during the Singapore Selection-Juventus two months ago, there were still sandy patches clearly visible - and Dunga was clearly not impressed.
Millionaire superstars such as Neymar, Robinho, Kaka and Oscar -- who all need to return to club duty this weekend, hopefully injury-free -- could be seen kicking up clouds of sand as they chased an awkwardly bouncing ball during a pre-match training session at the stadium.
“I feel that most of it is sand, not grass,” Dunga said during a press conference after the session.
The $860,000 Desso Grassmaster system utilised by the pitch combines artificial fibres and natural grass, but Dunga observed that the “synthetic [portion] is higher than the natural [part]”. Ground staff have also struggled to keep the pitch in tip-top shape amid Singapore's tropical climate amid the different demands of various concerts and sporting events.
According to him, this would not make it easy for the Selecao to produce an attractive brand of football in a game.
“It’s going to be hard to pass the ball,” he continued. “The Brazilian team always tries to produce a good spectacle… but we need good conditions of the field.”
RISK OF INJURIES
Dunga also declined to comment on whether the poor pitch conditions would be a risk to his players.
“It’s hard to say if injuries will happen because a lot will depend on what is going to happen in the game,” he said.
“The pitch brings higher risk for injuries because there is a lot of sand. Ihope the sand will not create potholes during the match, but I cannot say whether there will be injuries.”
Dunga's counterpart, Japan coach Javier Aguirre was more diplomatic but also was concerned about the state of the pitch.
"I understand that the Singaporean people are trying their best effort to have the best condition for the pitch. Honestly saying, it will take some more time to have a perfect condition. It’s sandy, a little bit, and it may be difficult [for us] to show the best performance."
Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima added, "I cannot say that this is a very good pitch. The situation will be the same for both teams and we may not be able to play beautiful football, but the team will try our best."