THE weather is refusing to play along in Confederations Cup organisers' efforts to provide suitable playing surfaces.
Brazil and Egypt were meant to train at Free State Stadium yesterday to prepare for their meeting on the same ground today, but unseasonably heavy overnight rain left a field already cut up from the South African rugby season in poor condition and forced them elsewhere.
With bright sunshine having replaced the rain, workers were replacing odd divots on the edge of a pitch with marks in the grass still clearly visible.
The move in training venues was the latest to illustrate the problems facing organisers where soccer and the more physical game of rugby, which is played on rougher fields with longer grass, are often played at the same stadiums.
Ground staff in Johannesburg had already had to work almost until kickoff of yesterday's tournament opener between South Africa and Iraq to improve the scarred turf at Ellis Park Stadium.
Egypt coach Hassan Shehata is hoping for more sunshine to help dry out the damp ground.
"In Egypt, our players are not used to playing on wet grounds, so it could be difficult," Shehata said.
"We hope the conditions will get better and better and there will be no problems, but we have brought our wet weather boots.
"If it rains, there is nothing we can do."
Fifa said the weather was the main reason for the switch, not the rugby that was played on the ground as recently as eight days ago when the British and Irish Lions defeated the Cheetahs 26-24.
"We kept the teams from practicing at the stadium because it rained a lot overnight and we wanted to avoid damaging the field for Monday's match," Fifa spokesperson Jorge Baptista said. "If it had not rained, we wouldn't have to cancel the practices here at the stadium."
Brazil coach Dunga seemed unflustered by the change. The former midfielder was on one of Brazil's five World Cup-winning teams, with those victories coming at venues as diverse as Stockholm, Santiago, Mexico City, Pasadena and Yokohama.
"I am more concerned with Egypt than the condition of the field," Dunga said. "We know we have to adapt to the condition of the field.
"My players are very experienced players and they can adapt to any conditions."
As goalkeepers, Julio Cesar and his Egypt counterpart are the players most liable to be embarrassed by the uneven surface.
Balls commonly take an unexpected change of direction by hitting a lump or slow into the path of an opponent because of a wet patch.
But the Brazilian was unconcerned.
"We saw the field now and it's holding up well despite the heavy rains," Cesar said. "I don't think it's going to be a problem at all."
And Shehata was doing his best not to be too downcast, knowing the conditions will affect Brazil and the African champions equally. He said he hoped his players could at least get the chance to walk about in the stadium to get used to the surroundings ahead of the match.
"We had hoped we could practice where we would play for the first game, but it is the same for both teams," Shehata said. - Sapa-AP