For organizers at a tournament like the European Championship, the less talk there is about the pitch, the better.That’s not the case this year.
As the quarterfinals begin, worries about the playing surfaces persist. Portugal coach Fernando Santos is concerned that the state of the grass at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome could mean less of a spectacle when his team faces Poland on Thursday.
France coach Didier Deschamps went as far as to call the Marseille pitch “a disaster” after players slipped during his team’s group stage win over Albania. Even though it has been eight days since the last game in Marseille, neither Portugal nor Poland trained on the pitch Wednesday.
“I don’t know if it’s in top shape but I’ve heard that it’s better,” Santos said through an interpreter. “If the pitch itself is good, both teams will be helped because they’re very technical teams . We play football on the ground, we play a fast game, both teams do.”
The Marseille stadium hosted an AC/DC rock concert last month, drawing the ire of French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet, who said club officials had been “taking risks” and that the pitches overall were not satisfactory for Euro 2016.
The Marseille playing surface appeared in better condition Wednesday, though it remains to be seen whether it will cut up when play starts.
UEFA had been carrying out repairs on the Marseille pitch during the group stage, as well as at the Stade de France in Paris, which will host the final. In Lille, the entire pitch had to be replaced after the group stage, giving it a patchy appearance for Germany’s 3-0 win over Slovakia in the last 16, for which the criticism was muted. That field faces another test when Wales and Belgium play there Friday.
There has been heavy rain over some venues, but strong sun in the south, leading to brown spots on the field in Nice when England lost to Iceland.
UEFA has been defensive over the state of the pitches.Announcing the Lille pitch replacement, UEFA defended its pitch consultant Richard Hayden from what it called “completely baseless criticism directed at him throughout the tournament” and hoped the condition of the fields would improve.
Now the tournament has reached the quarterfinals, any more talk about the pitches could dig up a major embarrassment for organizers.