England and Germany arrived in Brazil Sunday to launch their World Cup campaigns, with reigning champions Spain expected later and disgruntled Cameroon delaying their departure over a bonus row.
England touched down in Rio de Janeiro after an overnight flight from Miami and were escorted to their hotel in the posh Sao Conrado district by military police.
The hotel, the Royal Tulip, recently underwent a multi-million-dollar refit, but locals remember it as the scene of a 2010 shootout when gunmen took staff and several guests hostage.
England, who play their opening Group D match against Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus on Saturday, are taking over two of the hotel’s 17 floors and will train out of public view at a nearby military base just beneath Rio’s famed Sugar Loaf mountain.
A hotel spokeswoman told AFP security “has been stepped up” and would be “of the highest order” but would not elaborate. Municipal police said they and the military police would have a round-the-clock presence outside.
The Three Lions will get a daily glimpse of the huge gulf between the haves and have-nots in a city where the more than $11 billion spent on the World Cup has fueled months of protests.
King-size suites at the hotel cost around $1,000 a night and a swanky mall and country club are nearby.
But Rio’s largest favela, Rocinha, is easily visible as well.
England ended their pre-World Cup run with a bruising friendly against Honduras, but managed to escape unscathed with a 0-0 draw.
“The team is in good shape, we are all united and anxious for the first match against Italy,” England manager Roy Hodgson said.
– High hopes for Germany –
The rest of the 32 World Cup teams continue trickling in ahead of the June 12 kick-off match between Brazil and Croatia.
Including the hosts, 18 teams are now in Brazil, with Spain due to arrive Sunday evening.
Several hundred cheering people greeted Germany as they arrived at Santa Cruz Cabralia in the northeastern state of Bahia and boarded a boat to take them to Santo Andre and their specially built “Campo Bahia” base camp.
Fans waved Brazilian and German flags as the team, dressed in black suits, headed to their base camp.
“The expectations are high like every time a German team goes to a World Cup,” said team manager Oliver Bierhoff.
“We are among the favorites and of course Brazil are favorites too, because they will play at home.”
Coach Joachim Loew put his squad through their paces shortly after their arrival to sweat off the long journey and get used to conditions.
At their base camp the German squad will be split into four groups sharing six-room bungalows in a move designed to foster team spirit.
Germany play their opening Group G match against Portugal on June 16.
Russia, Greece and Algeria also touched down in Brazil on Sunday.
Cameroon meanwhile delayed their arrival, originally scheduled for Sunday, after the players refused to board the plane, demanding bonuses larger than the 50 million CFA francs ($104,000) they were offered by the government.
After prolonged talks, a deal was struck and the squad will depart Sunday night, a Cameroon Football Federation official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
State broadcaster CRTV said the players would each receive six percent of the revenue generated by the federation during the World Cup, in addition to their cash bonuses.