Travelling to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup is a long haul for all the European contenders, but when it comes to jet lag and climate, Fabio Capello's Russia may have the hardest time of all.
Alone among the UEFA contenders in having all of their international players based in their domestic league, Russia arrived in Brazil on Sunday following a 14-hour flight from Moscow, with the prospect of plenty more journeys to come. Their Group H campaign will take them to three cities: Cuiaba (South Korea, 18 June), Rio de Janeiro (Belgium, 22 June) and Curitiba (Algeria, 26 June), and they will be at another new destination – Porto Alegre or Salvador De Bahi – if they make it to the round of 16.
That is no small challenge, as Yuri Vasilkov – Russia's team doctor at he 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan – told UEFA.com: "There is a whole new science about long-distance travel. If we move by north to south – to Madagascar, for example – it's easy. Our bodies don't need to adapt. But if we go east or west and spend more than four hours in the plane, then our bodies find it harder to adapt to new circumstances."
Russia have already started training at their base in Itu, and Vasilkov is glad that Capello has not been pushing his charges too hard just yet. "After long flights, players shouldn't be training really hard," he explained. "They need time to recover. Also, we have noted that it is harder to sleep if you fly east to west."
Concerned sections of the national press, meanwhile, have focused on fears that cases of dengue fever – a viral disease that can be spread by mosquitoes, monkeys, lemurs, squirrels and bats as well as humans – have been reported within 50km of the Russia training base. It is not an issue that coach Capello has been losing any sleep over just yet. "We have got the full picture on this matter," the Italian confirmed. "We are doing everything to protect the team."
Naturally, that extends to nutrition too, with their chef in Brazil, Nino Graziano, having given a full rundown of what the players will be eating over the next few weeks. "We will say 'no' to fatty food," the Sicilian explained. "Pasta, chicken, fish and rice with vegetables are welcome and of course meat, which is very good in Brazil. We will give the players plenty of fruit too. The team's mood and results depend a lot on the quality of their diet."
Vasilikov remembers that food was a similarly hot-button issue in 2002. "Fancy food is not welcome at these tournaments as the pressure on players' bodies is very high anyway," he recalled. "We had to take individual needs into account, though. Back in 2002, I took some black caviar with me to spread it on bread to make some players happy. Believe me, it wasn't just for me."
Such treats may prove to be similarly rare in Brazil, but – as Vasilikov noted – the team are not there for fun. "Players need to struggle a bit," he concluded. "They will get the rest they deserve when they get home."
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