In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway said that “there is never any end to Paris.” At the 2014 World Cup, there is apparently never any end to Manaus.
According to an increasingly popular narrative, playing a match in the brutal heat and humidity of Manaus doesn’t stop at the final whistle. The after-effects, the Manaus hangover, linger for days after the game, sapping a team’s energy and their ability to compete in their next match.
The narrative is fueled by a disturbing trend: every team that has played in Manaus has lost their next match. England fell to (pre-bite) Luis Suarez. Italy crumbled against Costa Rica from mighty CONCACAF. Cameroon lost to Brazil. Croatia slipped against Mexico.
This notion has American fans nervous. Will the USA be ready to play Germany on Thursday just four days after drawing Portugal in sun-blistered Manaus?
If you’ve watched any matches played in the Amazonian city, the Manaus hangover seems legitimate. Nestled in dense rainforest, Manaus games have been slow, hesitant, and sweaty. On Sunday during the United States-Portugal match, the referee stopped play for a FIFA World Cup first: a water break. When American center-back Matt Besler briefly left the match to receive treatment in the second half, he looked as if he had just left a wet t-shirt contest.
“During the game, it absolutely affects you,” D.C. United midfielder Davy Arnaud told me over the phone. A 13-year MLS veteran and Texas native, he has had plenty of experience playing in hot climates. (“So many cramps… try an afternoon game in Houston mid-July,” he tweeted during the England-Italy game.) Against Portugal, he added, “you could tell those guys were drained. You can see it in the way people move.”
But Arnaud rejects any notion of a Manaus hangover. Games in hot climates “will drain you more at the time,” he said, “but once you’ve had a couple days, you’re going to be feeling back to normal.”
The science confirms Arnaud's claims. Grégory Dupont, a researcher at the University of Lille 2 and the head of performance for Lille FC, said in an email that “playing a game in extremely hot and humid conditions negatively impacts the physical performance during the match.” But Dupont argues that no research supports the notion of a post-Manaus hangover because “environmental heat stress does not aggravate the recovery process from a competitive soccer match.” The muscle damage players soccer players incur during a game relates to “exercise-induced factors” rather than to “heat-induced ones.”
If proper re-hydration protocols are followed, the American team should be physically recovered for Thursday’s clash with Germany. (Dupont suggests that the Yanks drink either “flavored milk” or “ tart cherry juice” and eat a meal heavy on protein and carbohydrates with a high glycemic index.)
Though the Manaus hangover is a myth (sorry, England), Arnaud and Dupont both reference the strong correlation between heat and in-game fatigue, a problem seen so evidently when the United States conceded a stoppage time equalizer to Portugal on Sunday.
Fans have pounced on stalwart Michael Bradley for his turnover that led to Silvestre Varela’s goal, but Bradley covered 12,730 meters against Ghana and 12,204 meters against Portugal, almost 15.5 miles combined. In this World Cup, only Australia’s Matt McKay ran more through two games. By the 95th minute, Bradley was beyond exhausted, every ounce of energy already evaporated into the Manaus night.