Connect with us

Sports

Italy And Turkey Get Ball Rolling As Euro 2020 Begins Under Covid Cloud

Published

on

An in-form Italy face Turkey in Rome on Friday as Euro 2020 finally gets underway a year behind schedule and with the coronavirus continuing to cast a shadow over the tournament.

Postponed 12 months ago because of the pandemic, the European Championship — with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal the holders — is being played for the first time all across the continent, with 11 cities from as far apart as Seville to Baku hosting matches.

The idea was first mooted by Michel Platini almost a decade ago when he was president of UEFA and has survived the Covid-19 crisis, but matches are being played in front of limited crowds and with onerous health restrictions in place.

In Rome, the Stadio Olimpico will be filled to about 25 percent of capacity, meaning 16,000 supporters will be present to watch Roberto Mancini’s Italy face Turkey in the first game in Group A.

“The opener is always difficult, and there will be plenty of emotions but you can’t get too carried away,” said Mancini, who has guided the Azzurri back to a major tournament after their ignominious failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.

Mancini has rebuilt Italy, the 1968 European champions, on a 27-match unbeaten run.

“We have created a great squad. We want to continue to have fun together and we will try to make it to London. I’m very positive,” he told reporters.

London will host the semi-finals of the 24-team tournament as well as the final on July 11.

– Spain, Sweden virus cases –

As anticipation grows, the build-up has been overshadowed by several positive virus cases affecting players.

Spain’s preparations have been hit after two players, Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente, tested positive, although Llorente on Thursday returned a negative test.

The team even had to name a “parallel” squad of 17 reserve players, fearing a possible wider outbreak in the official 26-man squad.

Although captain Busquets still has Covid, Llorente’s test result will allay fears that the first-choice side might have to miss Spain’s opener against Sweden in Seville on Monday.

Two Swedish players — forward Dejan Kulusevski of Juventus and midfielder Mattias Svanberg — also tested positive, with six reserve players called up on stand-by.

But despite the ongoing threat, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has been bullish, insisting the Euro will be safe.

“It will be the perfect opportunity to show the world that Europe is adapting,” he said recently. “Europe is alive and celebrating life. Europe is back.”

The clearest illustration of that is set to come from Budapest, where it is hoped the new Puskas Arena will be packed to capacity.

But the majority of the 11 venues, all in different countries, will only be partially-filled for matches, even if Denmark announced it would lift mask rules and allow 25,000 fans, instead of 16,000, to attend games in Copenhagen.

Munich will host just 14,000 fans — around 22 percent of the Allianz Arena’s capacity, the lowest of the stadiums being used.

– France the favourites –

Dublin and Bilbao were dropped from the list of hosts after being unable to give guarantees they could meet UEFA’s requirement of accommodating limited numbers of spectators, but Seville stepped in for Bilbao while Dublin’s games went to London and Saint-Petersburg.

On the pitch, France are firm favourites despite being one of the few traditional giants not to have any games at home. The world champions’ first match is in Munich against Germany on Tuesday.

Holders Portugal, with a star-studded squad beyond Ronaldo, and Hungary complete a tough-looking Group F.

The other likely contenders include Belgium, sweating over the fitness of key player Kevin De Bruyne after he suffered facial injuries in the recent Champions League final.

In England, there are hopes Gareth Southgate’s young side could take advantage of playing most of their games at Wembley.

England have never before reached a European Championship final, but captain Harry Kane believes the team will start their bid in a “better place” than they were before reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

– Ukraine, Russia in shirt row –

UEFA has also demanded that Ukraine make changes to its jersey after Russia complained.

European football’s governing body said the message “Glory to the Heroes”, a rallying cry during the 2014 anti-Russia protests in Ukraine that is featured inside the shirt, was “clearly political in nature” and must be removed.

However, the Ukrainian football association said it was in talks with UEFA to reverse its decision.

News9 mins ago

”It was the worst decision of my life”- Denrele Edun reveals he once dated a man (video)

Health11 mins ago

One Scary Side Effect of Drinking Too Much Caffeine, According to Science

World37 mins ago

Ex-Muslim who became Catholic now says ‘Rome is lost, and the Qur’an is the road to truth’

News43 mins ago

Constitution review: FCT natives demand Abuja be made a State

Politics51 mins ago

APC Chairman In Plateau State Sacked From Office

News1 hour ago

Shade Ladipo: “Nigerians don’t like when people find hap-p*nis”

News1 hour ago

My grandson’s generation should not know “Up NEPA” – Pastor Tunde Bakare

World2 hours ago

Is Israel Illegally Displacing Arabs In East Jerusalem?

News2 hours ago

BREAKING: Zambian President, Lungu collapses at Defence Force Day event

Business News2 hours ago

Agriculture, Key to Africa’s Quest for Continued Growth and Sustainability

News2 hours ago

Again, gunmen attack Zaria again, abduct residents

World2 hours ago

Pakistan: Mosques collecting donations for Afghan Taliban

News2 hours ago

Photo of Turkey-based Nigerian man allegedly found inside a bottle buried in his uncompleted building

News3 hours ago

Nigerian Air Force bomb mistakenly strays into wedding party in Niger State

Business News3 hours ago

Nelson, Abebrese Plant Trees for Green Ghana Initiative

News3 hours ago

Nigerian Air Force bombs wedding party in Niger State

Business News3 hours ago

Software Engineer Favour Ori Disrupts Fintech Space With PayDay

News3 hours ago

Police arrest 19-year-old kidnapper, four others in FCT

Entertainment4 hours ago

Meet All the Cast of Back to School Series

World4 hours ago

CAIR-linked Hamas denounces Ilhan Omar for equating ‘Palestinian Resistance’ to ‘crimes of Israel and the US’

News16 hours ago

Aunt mourns niece’s death, accuses her pastor husband of domestic violence

News20 hours ago

Anambra 2021: LP chooses Agbasimelo, ‘Oga-Ndi-Oga’ Movement boss as its guber candidate

News21 hours ago

Senate President visits wounded soldiers in Kaduna, donates N10m

News21 hours ago

Pretty Mike attends Toyin Lawani’s wedding with convey of baby mamas and their babes (video)

News18 hours ago

Caroline Danjuma says as she wished her rift with Davido over Tagbo’s death never happened

News23 hours ago

FG suspends salaries of 331 civil servants

News20 hours ago

Banditry: Things are getting worse daily in Zamfara, Gov Matawalle cries out

News7 hours ago

Police justifies use of tear gas on June 12 protesters

News15 hours ago

Nkechi Blessing Sunday: “A man that can be snatched is not worth fighting for”

News11 hours ago

Tension in Abia as Army, ESN clash, soldier shot

News3 hours ago

Nigerian Air Force bomb mistakenly strays into wedding party in Niger State

World21 hours ago

Virginia: Muslim school board member from jihad-linked mosque tells high school students to remember their ‘jihad’

News17 hours ago

There are no grazing routes in Bayelsa – Governor Diri replies Buhari

News2 hours ago

BREAKING: Zambian President, Lungu collapses at Defence Force Day event

World20 hours ago

Pakistan: Muslim mob of over 300 attacks Christian village after villager spills water on clothes of young Muslim

News23 hours ago

NDLEA intercepts 100,000 bottles of codeine syrup at Onne Port –spokesman

World24 hours ago

Nigeria: Chief Imam of major Islamic society says Islam supports child marriage

News6 hours ago

Accident: “Hit and Run” vehicle kills Okada rider in Osun

News10 hours ago

Boko Haram luring new recruits, spies with N5,000 – Governor Zulum

News20 hours ago

Photos of Celebrities at Toyin Lawani’s traditional wedding

Trending