Euro 2020 English

COVID-19’s long shadow looms over Euro 2020 as multiple players test positive

Just five days short of their Euro 2020 campaign kick-off against Sweden in Seville, Spain’s preparation for the tournament was given another kick in the rear after defender Diego Llorente became the second player from the Spanish squad to test positive for COVID-19 after captain Sergio Busquets.

Both Llorente and Busquets have left the training camp in medical transport as per the protocol while other players, due to be vaccinated on Wednesday, will remain in isolation and undergo personalized training.

Spain coach Luis Enrique has yet to confirm whether the two would be dropped from the squad as the duo have to stay in isolation for at least 10 days, which means they will be unable to play any part in Spain’s opening game.

Aside from Llorente and Busquets, eight players in Spain’s squad, including Jose Gaya, Mikel Oyarzabal, Thiago, Adama Traore, Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia, Fabian Ruiz and Ferran Torres had been earlier victims of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

As a precautionary measure in the event of further new tests proving positive, Spain called up six new players to take part in a parallel training bubble. Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Villarreal’s Raul Albiol will begin to train on Wednesday, joining Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds United), Pablo Fornals (West Ham United), Carlos Soler (Valencia) and Brais Mendez (Celta Vigo), who arrived a day earlier.

While Spain’s senior squad are still in isolation, their final warm-up match against Lithuania on Tuesday night was played by the under-21 players. From the 20 players called up for the game, 19 had never played before for the senior team, but the youngsters were gung-ho and game for the challenge and ended up thumping their hapless opponents 4-0.

Spain are not the only Euro team to suffer significant disruptions due to the coronavirus. Fellow Group E opponents Sweden found themselves in a similar situation as Dejan Kulusevski, who plays for Italian giants Juventus, and Bologna midfielder Mattias Svanberg tested positive on Tuesday.

“We won’t bring in anyone else to replace Dejan and we hope that he will be back soon,” Swedish team doctor Anders Valentin said in a press conference, confirming the Juventus star will not be available for the game against Spain.

Valentin also added that Kulusevski would remain in Stockholm while the rest of the squad traveled to Gothenburg. It represented another setback for Sweden, who have already lost AC Milan talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a knee injury back in May.

Earlier this month, Scotland were also forced to pull out six players from their friendly against Netherlands after John Fleck tested positive during a pre-game screening. The Sheffield United midfielder is isolating at Scotland’s training camp in Spain and could miss their opening game against the Czech Republic on Monday.

The hope within European football’s governing body is that the existing anti-virus measures, which were used throughout the club game last season, will ensure a safe Euro and minimal disruption, but as the current situation shows, guaranteeing the smooth running of the tournament is going to be a really tall order.