Euro 2020 finally kicks off on Friday, June 11, 2021, with games in multiple locations and countries with differing COVID-19 infection rates and movement restrictions. Unfortunately, some players have already started testing positive for the virus, so what does that mean for the tournament?
Compared to previous years, where talk before starting a major tournament was focused on surprise selections, injury doubts, fierce rivalries, and tactical tweaks, Euro 2020 is all about travel rules, testing, and quarantines. COVID-19 has also affected sports betting as people scramble for Euro 2020 offers before the tournament starts.
Effect of COVID-19 Positive Tests on Euro 2020 Teams
Teams have had to call up players as coronavirus reserves and keep them in a separate bubble from the main squad. For example, Spain had to send home its captain Sergio Busquets to isolate after testing positive for coronavirus a week before the start of the games. Fortunately, the virus had not spread to other squad players.
Positive tests and scares have also seen competing teams fielding under-21 sides and bench star players for their final warmup matches. For example, Spain fielded an under-21 side against Lithuania in their final warmup game. Sweden is also affected by positive COVID-19 cases and had six of their leading players miss their last warmup match against the Netherlands.
Some teams are trying to secure vaccines to vaccinate players against the coronavirus ahead of the tournament. However, so far, efforts have not been successful, and it seems squad disruptions will be an underlying feature in this year’s Euro 2020 finals.
Players who test positive must self-isolate to protect the rest of the team players and other squads.
UEFA’s 13 Players Rule
Tournament organizers UEFA said that EURO 2020 finals’ matches would go on as scheduled, provided the teams have at least 13 players available and eligible to play – including one goalkeeper. The football body has further allowed the expansion of squads from 23 players to 26 and increased substitutions per side to five with an additional one during extra time.
Teams can also call up additional players from home in case of a COVID-19 outbreak in their camps but must also send home a similar number of players.
Teams that fail to have 13 players available for a game can have their match rescheduled within 48 hours to give them time to meet the minimal player requirement. Otherwise, they risk forfeiting the match 3-0.
Effects of the New UEFA Rules on the Tournament
The threat of positive COVID-19 tests, late notice relocation of matches, change of players and starting lineups, travel restrictions, and other unique rules set by UEFA is a cause of concern to fans.
Furthermore, UEFA’s decision to hold the tournament across 11 stadiums across Europe has also affected fans who plan to follow and support their teams.
As of today, the Puskas Arena Budapest remains the only stadium set to open at total capacity. However, others will open at varying capacities, such as 50% (Baku and St. Petersburg), 25% (Wembley Stadium), or 22% (Allianz Arena in Munich).
However, these numbers could change with the tightening or ease of restrictions daily across Europe. Fans are hoping for a full house in London during the July 11 final, especially after the UK government announced its policy to ease almost all restrictions in the country by June 21.
Unfortunately, the new Delta variant of the coronavirus could dampen those plans.
As things stand, only the vaccinated, fortunate, brave, and financially stable fans have any hope of supporting their teams as in past tournaments. Still, it’s exciting to experience the tournament, even if it’s from home.