COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — The Amazon jungle city of Manaus was the big winner at the World Cup draw.
Branded "the place ideally to avoid" by England coach Roy Hodgson this week, the humid, steamy city far distant from the soccer hotspots of Brazil became the tournament's must-see venue on Friday.
Manaus got lucky beyond its dreams despite being awarded just four group-stage matches at the 44,000-capacity Arena Amazonia.
England vs. Italy tops a four-match World Cup bill on the opening Saturday, and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal comes to play the United States on the second Sunday.
Two more European visitors must also trek northward: Croatia vs. Cameroon and Switzerland vs. Honduras.
Miguel Capobiango, World Cup coordinator for the Amazon state governor's office, told The Associated Press: "We won the World Cup today."
Some team coaches did not share his enthusiasm.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is now rethinking his team's plans of training more than 1,680 miles away near Sao Paulo. His fellow German Volker Finke, the Cameroon coach, described the prospect of playing in Manaus as a "little bit of a problem."
Hodgson steered clear of making strong statements Friday after previously igniting the Manaus mayor's anger.
"I have never been to the Amazon. It will be a very interesting experience, not just for me but for the team," Hodgson said after the draw.
"We would also prefer that England doesn't come," Manaus mayor Arthur Virgilio had said on the eve of the draw. "We hope to get a better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite."