Heat is on as women’s World Cup steps into the sauna
With the temperature in France soaring, organisers and teams are taking steps to adapt as the winter sport again faces the problem of playing its marquee tournaments in summer.
After often cool June weather for the group stages, temperatures have risen.
In Montpellier on Tuesday, when Italy play China in the early evening, the temperature will be 31 degrees Celsius (88 degress Fahrenheit). By Thursday in Paris, when the hosts play the USA in an evening quarterfinal, temperatures are forecast to top 35 degrees.
In a variation on a traditional theme when dealing with football fans, organisers are urging supporters to remember to drink.
FIFA have even relaxed their ban on taking drinks into stadiums.
Fans can bring their own bottles, provided the tops have been removed and no brand name is visible.
– ‘No excuses’ –
Coca-Cola is one of the FIFA sponsorship partners for the tournament and only their brands, including Sprite, Fuzetea and Smartwater, are available at grounds.
There will be ‘cooling breaks’ in play if the temperature reaches certain levels, in previous men’s World Cups the trigger point has been 32 degrees. Coolings break were enforced in each half of the New Zealand v Cameroon game on June 20.
FIFA said it is working with Coca-Cola to ensure the supply of their products for players, officials and staff.
“Generally speaking the health of the players is always the focus of attention,” said FIFA.
Teams have taken different attitudes.
“We’ve been thinking about it for a while now, we’ve been expecting it,” said Philippe Joly, one of France’s assistant coaches.
“We do hydration tests regularly to see if each girl is drinking the right amount,” said Joly. “We will ask them to drink regularly and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
“We’re asking them not to always stay indoors, to go outdoors to really adapt,” he said. “The training sessions don’t change, there will just be a lot of breaks to drink.”
When England beat Cameroon in Valenciennes in the last 16, the temperature at kick off was 29 degrees.
“We are prepared for that. There’s no excuses,” said England coach Phil Neville. “We prepared for 40 days for the heat. Our acclimatisation was very thorough.”
“We have been trying to get as much heat exposure as we can. We have been wearing thick thermal tops in training and layering up, and we have been in the sauna every day.”
Neville said the heat had an impact on performance.
“In hot weather you have to pass the ball better and concentrate better.”
The Italians, on the other hand, say they have no particular plans.
“We are used to playing in the heat,” said one of their staff.