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Euro 2020 dealing with positive coronavirus tests before tournament even begins

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Despite a one-year postponement and strict containment measures, the Euro 2020 soccer tournament still is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic with games set to begin across Europe on Friday.

On Tuesday, Spain announced that center back Diego Llorente had tested positive for coronavirus, the second player on the three-time European champion to test positive after captain Sergio Busquets. Both players now must go into isolation for at least 10 days, meaning they will miss Spain's group-stage opener against Sweden on Monday and likely will not be ready for its second game against Poland on June 19.

Spain Manager Luis Enrique has called up 17 players from the country's under-21 team to train separately from the senior team, also in bubblelike conditions, in case he needs to add players to its Euro 2020 roster. He has until Saturday to make changes to his initial list because of injuries or coronavirus. Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation, said Tuesday that "there could be more" positive tests forthcoming, though none have turned up yet. The team will not practice as a full group until at least the weekend, with players training individually or in small groups until they receive the all-clear.

El País reported Tuesday that Spain's Health Ministry had approved a request for the country's players and support staff to receive coronavirus vaccinations ahead of Monday's Euro 2020 opener. They will receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, with the second dose administered around June 30, a few days before the start of the Euro 2020 quarterfinals.

Spain, a three-time European champion, is seen as one of the tournament favorites this year.

Sweden has coronavirus issues of its own, as winger Dejan Kulusevski and midfielder Mattias Svanberg have tested positive. Both will miss the match with Spain and possibly Sweden's second group-stage game against Slovakia on June 18.

Scotland midfielder John Fleck also tested positive during training last week and likely will not be in the lineup for the team's opener Tuesday against the Czech Republic.

The 24 teams that qualified for Euro 2020 will be allowed 26 players each, up three from past years. This was seen as a response to possible positive coronavirus tests and increased player workloads created by a pandemic-condensed schedule, as national teams must fit in qualification matches for the 2022 World Cup along with preparations for the European Championship and the players' usual club-team duties.

UEFA has established a number of covid protocols in the event of outbreaks. Games will move forward as scheduled if a team has at least 13 available players, including at least one goalkeeper. If a team does not have the mandatory 13 players, its match may be postponed for 48 hours and could be moved to a different location. If the match cannot be rescheduled, the team affected by the outbreak will forfeit the match, with its opponent declared a 3-0 winner.

Euro 2020 was postponed from last summer because of the pandemic (UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has decided to keep its year-old naming structure). It will be played in 11 cities across Europe and begins Friday with a match between Italy and Turkey in Rome. The final is July 11 in London.

At least some fans will be allowed into the stadiums in all 11 sites, though some of the host cities have struggled to contain the pandemic as vaccinations lag. In St. Petersburg, site of seven matches, the number of daily coronavirus infections has exceeded 800 over the last two weeks. In England, where eight matches will be held, all legal limits on social contact are scheduled to be lifted June 21, despite worries that the nation is on the verge of a third wave of infection because of the delta variant.

All fans who attend matches at London's Wembley Stadium before June 21 will be required to present either proof of a negative coronavirus test within the previous 48 hours or proof of vaccination. Approximately 22,500 fans will be allowed into the 90,000-seat stadium for group-stage and round-of-16 matches, with increased capacity possible for later matches.

Published : June 10, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Matt Bonesteel