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The threat of elimination


Lots of goals, lots of drama on and off the pitch, but very little expectation. That’s whats been happening so far in the World Cup. England never posed enough of a threat to their opposition. But there are other threats in Brazil that need addressing if we’re ever to keep hold of the varied, the beautiful, the vital Amazon.

Before we talk more about the Amazon, lets find out what else blog manager Duncan Mizen asked ex-England and Chelsea footballer – and WWF Ambassador – Graeme Le Saux about the World Cup, from his back garden.

What are your favourite World Cup moments as a player?

Graeme: I think qualifying for the 1998 World Cup was a huge achievement for us as a country because we’d lost to Italy funnily enough at Wembley and I’d just recovered from a long term injury and my first game back was for England against Italy in the World Cup qualifiers when we lost 1-0, and a good mate of mine Gianfranco Zola scored so that was not great and it meant that by the end of the campaign we needed to go to Rome and play Italy and get a draw in order to qualify for France ’98 and whoever came second in that group then had to go and play in a play-off against Russia. So it was going to be a tough, tough game for the losers to then qualify.

So we got the draw and we played really well but it was a 0-0 draw but it was an incredible game because it was really tense and we had to pull together as a team and we played every so well against a very good Italian side.

Graeme Le Saux battles for the ball against Colombia. World Cup 98, France © Getty ImagesGraeme Le Saux battles for the ball against Colombia. World Cup 98, France © Getty Images

So that I suppose would be one memory, the route to the World Cup, and then playing in all of those games. We played very well in our first game, didn’t do so well in our second game, and then played well in our third match, and then we were drawn against Argentina because we finished second in our group, and that was an incredible game as well because it had everything in it; there was drama as it went to penalties, Michael Owen’s goal. We were right on the edge of our limits really. And obviously we had the Beckham sending off as well. So it was a pretty fun-packed game. And the result was we lost on penalties, so it was devastating as well.

But, it was all part of an incredible experience from a professional point of view, as it’s something you’ll always cherish because you’re competing on a world stage against one of the best footballing nations in the world. It was great to be a part of it but a shame we wouldn’t overcome them and get through to the latter stages. It makes you realise though how difficult it is to win a World Cup. There were certain countries that have a certain set of beliefs that they really feel they should be there and they’ve got the system, process, confidence and ability to win quite regularly.

Brazil itself is a country with a huge World Cup pedigree, so they’ll be going into this tournament thinking: ‘we’ve got to win this for the people and we’re capable of doing it.’

Who’s the best England left back of all time?

Graeme: Well it’s obvious isn’t it?! (jokes)….it’s Ashley Cole! (laughs). If you think how many World Cups he’s played in, he’s got 107 caps, and he’s been the most consistent England left back of all time. Given how often he gets forward though, I’ve always questioned his creativity and final ball. I don’t think he’s ever returned as much with assists and goals as he should have, and possibly as someone like Leighton Baines has in his short tenure so far as first choice left back, but Ashley wins the record for his athleticism, as well as his consistency and length of service, which is testament to his ability in that position.

I mean Stuart Pearce and Kenny Samson were my role models, and above me in the food chain when it came to England left backs, and I’d never thought I’d replace Stuart Pearce as England’s left back, because he was a stalwart  – Nottingham Forest captain and England captain as well.

Players like these, well it’s hard to compare them in some ways, but if I was going to say one player, based on sheer consistency and the amount of games he’s played, you’d have to say Ashley Cole……oh and me! (jokes).

The show must go on

Sadly (or maybe thankfully depending on how you look at things) England didn’t stick around long in Brazil. The Amazon rainforest is likely to endure a good while longer but we can ill-afford to be complacent. Policies targeting deforestation, particularly in Brazil have slowed the deforestation rate – but we are still losing the forest at a rate of around three football pitches per minute.

Threats from agriculture

Economies of Amazonian countries – and their populations – are growing fast, and that only increases pressure on the Amazon. Particularly as surrounding biomes have already been decimated by agriculture and unsustainable development.  Only 7 percent of native vegetation of the Atlantic Forest remains and we have lost close to half of the original vegetation in the Cerrado. The Amazon is the last frontier.

Cattle ranching, São-Paulo © Jeffrey A Sayer / WWF-CanonCattle ranching, São-Paulo © Jeffrey A Sayer / WWF-Canon

Threats from cattle

Cattle ranching is the number one cause of deforestation in the Amazon, responsible for as much as 75 percent of the deforestation. Brazil is the world’s top exporter of beef, and exports only represent around 20 percent of total beef sales, the rest destined for national markets. Brazilians love beef almost as much as their football!

Soya, exported to feed livestock like chickens, pigs and cows here in Europe, is another key cause of habitat loss in the Amazon. Thanks to a pact between businesses, NGOs and government – known as the Amazon Soy Moratorium – soya production on pristine Amazon rainforest has fallen dramatically. However the Moratorium comes to a close at the end of 2014 and we are working hard to ensure that some form of agreement with producers is put in place from 2015.

Threats from dams

Hydropower dams threaten both the Amazon river system itself, providing barriers to migration of aquatic species but also greatly altering the river flows and water quality and temperature. Close to 100 large dams are either operational, in construction or proposed across the Amazon river basin.

Dams are also a driver for deforestation and the most recent example of this are plans for two dams on the Tapajos tributary which could result in the reduction in size of Brazils fourth largest national park, Juruena. You can sign the petition if you want to show your support to keep the park intact. Other drivers of deforestation and habitat loss include mining, oil and gas development and road construction.

Itaipu-dam, Paraná River © Michel Gunther / WWF-CanonItaipu-dam, Paraná River © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

The good news

The good news is that we have a strong presence in the Amazon and are achieving some great things, which will be the subject of my next blog. In the meantime, with England out of the World Cup I’ll be cheering on the Latin American teams, as well as working hard to ensure we get the right results for the Amazon too.

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