ENGLAND’S vital World Cup qualifier away to Poland was last night postponed until 4pm today because of a torrential downpour that left the surface of the £400m national stadium unquestionably unplayable.
Upon his first inspection, England manager Roy Hodgson was visibly unhappy with the pitch’s condition after significant storms around Warsaw, and the officials’ damaging failure to close the stadium’s retractable roof, ensured that water engulfed the pitch to leave postponement until today as the only apparent option and one that the manager was concerned may not get fulfilled.
“I’m rather hoping they will get it [the roof] closed as quickly as possible and start to do some work on the pitch because the pitch is in very poor condition,” Hodgson said. “It’s going to need a lot of attention if it’s going to be playable.
“There are no other possibilities. You can’t find dates at international level. The dates that are available are all taken up, so you can’t just suddenly decide we’ll play it another time.”
It is the rules of world football’s governing body Fifa that dictate that both teams must attempt to replay a fixture within 24 hours if there is no option but to postpone it under such circumstances, and if that is not possible then a date must be agreed by the two relevant associations. Poland’s players were believed to be reluctant to reconvene again today due to their club commitments of domestic fixtures on Friday but Hodgson, in contrast, was adamant that that should still be the case.
“What you have to do is to try to organise to get the game played as quickly as possible,” Hodgson (right) explained. “We’re disappointed. We prepared well for this start, as no doubt the Poles have too, but now we’ve got to do it all over again and hopefully we’ll be as prepared as we were.
“I have chosen the team to start the game and I have no intention of changing it unless someone falls ill.”
For the travelling England fans – 2,000 of which were scheduled to fly home last night – the officials’ decision not to close the roof despite the forecasting of rain is sure to be the subject of intense dismay. The Warsaw-based stadium’s retractable roof cannot be moved while rain is falling so even then substantial action could not be taken and those with tickets remained exposed to the elements for an additional 45 minutes as a decision was delayed regarding the evening’s outcome.
In addition to the Polish FA, the postponement of a first England fixture since 1979 could also result in scrutiny on the role of the Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi.