Main pitch out of bounds for team practise games

SHANGHAI - Teams competing in the Women's World Soccer Cup complained yesterday of being banned from training in the main stadium ahead of key group games.

SHANGHAI - Teams competing in the Women's World Soccer Cup complained yesterday of being banned from training in the main stadium ahead of key group games.

World champions Germany, who said they were "honoured" to be chosen to play in the World Cup opening match against Argentina today, admitted to being taken aback by the decision.

"We were amazed by the information that we are not allowed to practise in the stadium," said coach Silvia Neid.

"We are used to doing so, and we like to do so because we like to check the pitch conditions and that makes sense." All four teams in Group A - Germany, Japan, Argentina, and England - had been offered training slots in the Hongkou Stadium, the Shanghai football showpiece where the opening match and the final on September 30 will take place.

"We were only informed last night that we will not get that chance," said England coach Hope Powell.

"It was a disappointment and quite unexpected. It is a fantastic stadium and a bit of a shame that we could not run out there with our boots on. Obviously, you like to train on the match pitch every time." Fifa, world football's governing body, said the teams had all agreed to skip stadium training to preserve the pitch.

"There is absolutely no issue," Fifa spokesman Nicolas Maingot said.

"We absolutely understand the teams' disappointment, but this is all about ensuring that we have the best pitch possible for the tournament."

Since the beginning of the month rain has fallen almost daily on the east China port city, Maingot said, necessitating a change of training plans for the teams.

"We are disappointed too," he said. "But we did it for the good of the Games." The US are considered favourites to win the Cup. - Sapa-AFP

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