London – English newspapers reacted with horror Saturday after England were doomed to play Italy in the sweltering Brazilian jungle, in a World Cup draw that also pits them against Uruguay and Costa Rica.
For several papers, the reaction of Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said it all – upon hearing the news, he had been caught on camera drawing a finger across his throat.
“Lord help us!” said The Sun's front page headline, slapped over a large picture of Rio de Janeiro's giant Christ the Redeemer statue.
Inside it ran a double-page spread headed “Amazon Pain Forest”, predicting a struggle for England in their June 14 match against four-times champions Italy in the humid northern city Manaus.
The press were swift to label Group D the “Group of Death” – though Group B, which sets up Spain and the Netherlands for a re-enactment of the 2010 final, is also vying for the title.
The Mirror ran a front page picture of Dyke making the “we're dead” gesture, with the headline: “He thinks it's all over!”
For Matt Dickinson of The Times, the gesture “perfectly captured the story of England's anguish”.
Coach Roy Hodgson had hoped “to avoid a trip into the stiflingly sultry Amazonian jungle and a tough European opponent,” Dickinson wrote.
“England drew both in their opening fixture, so if this was not quite Hodgson's worst fears come true, it was all too close to the nightmare scenario.”
Twice champions Uruguay and Costa Rica provide further dangerous opposition in a group described by the Guardian as “probably as treacherous as anything Hodgson could have dared imagine”.
Hodgson had expressed his lack of enthusiasm for a trip to steamy Manaus, and it appears the feeling is mutual – after his apparently disparaging comments, the city's prefect said he would rather play host to other teams.
Darren Lewis of the Mirror was one of the few commentators to point to reasons for England to stay optimistic.
“Ours is an England team with experience and creativity,” he wrote.
“We have young players with pace, the rising stars we wanted to see at this level after we were humbled by Germany three years ago. We should be positive.” – Sapa-AFP