MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Italy is going tropical as it heads into the jungle.
When the Azzurri face England in the World Cup's Amazonian venue of Manaus on Saturday, they will be relying on some local fruits and vegetables to help them deal with the extreme heat and humidity.
"Coconut water is the ideal supplement after matches and training sessions and pineapple and papaya also work well for their anti-inflammatory powers," team nutritionist Elisabetta Orsi said.
After Italy struggled with the heat and humidity at last year's Confederation Cup, coach Cesare Prandelli put a serious emphasis on fitness and nutrition in the buildup to this tournament.
For the first time at a World Cup or European Championship, it isn't the Italy squad's chef who decides on the menu for the players. Instead the meals are carefully selected by the team's medical staff and two nutritionists.
Chef Claudio Silvestri — who is famous in Italy after starring in a Nutella TV commercial — merely prepares the meals.
"Obviously the meals have been studied to suit the climate," Orsi wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "So there are not many sauces or condiments but rather simple recipes and above all a good use of raw vegetables to control the acidity produced by intense activity and stress. Also, fruit plays an important role for hydration and regenerating minerals."
Last year in Fortaleza, eight Italy players asked to be substituted at halftime of a stifling semifinal against Spain, which the Azzurri went on to lose in a penalty shootout.