The delayed Euro 2020 will finally start on Friday, a year later, Covid will still cast a shadow over the tournament. The event across the continent, when UEFA President Michel Platini announced that the tournament was already scheduled to take place across Europe, will be played in front of a limited crowd and will feature drastic health restrictions. The action will start at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, where Italy will host Turkey in front of 16,000 fans.
Spain’s preparations for the full month’s tournament have been a success for both players, Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente, after the virus tested positive, although Llorente tested negative on Thursday.
The team had to appoint a “parallel” reserve team of 17 players for fear of a wider appearance in the official 26-man squad.
Although captain Busquets still has Covid, the results of Llorente’s test will dispel fears on Monday that Spain’s first game of the game against Sweden should be missed.
Two Swedish players – striker Dejan Kulusevski and midfielder Mattias Svanberg – have also tested positive against the virus, with six players booked on standby.
Despite the constant threat, UEFA President Alexander Ceferin has been rude, stressing that Euro 2020 will be safe.
“It will be the perfect opportunity to show the world that Europe is adapting,” he said. “Europe is alive and celebrating. Europe is back.”
The clearest illustration of this will come from Budapest, where the new Puskas Arena is expected to be packed.
But most of the 11 venues, from different countries, will only be partially filled for matches, although Denmark announced on Thursday that it would remove the mask rules and allow 25,000 fans, instead of 16,000, to attend matches in Copenhagen.
Munich plans to gather at least 14,500 fans – about 22 percent of the capacity of the Allianz Arena, the lowest of the stadiums used.
They were left out of the host list in Dublin and Bilbao when UEFA could not guarantee that they could meet the limited number of spectators, but Sevilla made their way to Bilbao while the Dublin matches went to London and St Petersburg.
Favorite of France
On the field, France will be their favorite at home, despite being one of the only traditional giants who hasn’t played a game. The first match of the World Cup is in Munich against Germany on Tuesday.
“All other countries envy us,” the cover of the French sports newspaper L’Equipe said featured photos of Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann.
All eyes will be on the 33-year-old Benzema striker, who was remembered after a prosperous five-and-a-half-year international exile after a prosperous season at Real Madrid.
The starters are Portugal, with a star team led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Hungary with a tough-looking Group F.
Among the other likely competitors among the 24 nations is Belgium, who suffered facial injuries in the final Champions League final due to sweating the physical condition of top player Kevin De Bruyne and the usual Suspects in Spain and Italy.
In England, there is hope that young Gareth Southgate team can take advantage of playing most games at Wembley.
England have never reached the European Championship final, but captain Harry Kane believes the team will start their offer in a “better place” before reaching the 2018 World Cup finals.
Ukraine, Russia shirt queue
UEFA has also asked Ukraine to make changes to its jersey after denouncing Russia.
The governing body of European football received the message “Glory to the Heroes”, a proclamation made inside the shirt in the 2014 protests against Ukraine in Russia, which is “clearly political” and should be removed.
However, the Ukrainian football association said it was in talks with UEFA to reverse its decision.
The association told AFP that “earlier UEFA had approved the new kit and all its elements, including the slogan”.
When the tournament started there was also controversy surrounding the anti-racism gesture against taking the knee, and many teams said they would continue to do so before the games.
The England players were boooed by some of their supporters as they knelt in warm-up matches, and Croatia on Thursday said their players were not asked to make a gesture and Scotland said their team would stand.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he agrees with supporters who boo the players for protesting against racism.
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