The first stadium to allow full capacity at the European Championship resulted in a lot of cheering for Hungary while it was playing defending champion Portugal in Budapest. During the tournament, some teams are declining to take a knee to protest racism, including Italy and Turkey. The Associated Press has the story:
Hungary cheered by a nearly-full stadium of fans at European Championship
(AP) The Latest on soccer’s European Championship:
The first nearly-full stadium at this year’s European Championship is giving Hungary some boisterous support.
Defending champion Portugal is playing Hungary at the 67,215-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest. It is the only stadium at this year’s tournament to allow a full capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hungarian fans bellowed out the national anthem and then broke out into loud chanting and slow-clapping in a bid to encourage their team before the game.
Hungary’s most vocal support congregated behind one of the goals. Portugal’s red-shirted and flag-waving followers filled a small section behind where their goalkeeper started the match.
Cristiano Ronaldo was stopped by a security official to have his identity checked before playing for Portugal against Hungary at the European Championship.
The official at the Puskas Arena in Budapest asked to see the tournament credential of one of the world’s most famous and identifiable sports stars as he walked toward Portugal’s dressing room.
The official carefully checked both sides of the plastic lanyard and then ushered a mask-wearing Ronaldo on his way.
Ronaldo politely complied and raised his eyebrows a little as he walked on.
Taking a knee
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has indicated that his team is not planning on taking a knee to protest racism before its European Championship match against Switzerland on Wednesday.
Bonucci says that while the Azzurri are “obviously all against any form of racism and discrimination” that “every federation is free to decide on their own.”
Switzerland joined Wales in taking a knee before their opening match in Group A. Neither Italy nor Turkey took a knee before the tournament opener in Rome.
England defender Tyrone Mings has responded to criticism from British Home Secretary Priti Patel for taking a knee before games at the European Championship.
Mings noted how Patel previously invited him onto a Zoom call to hear about racism in the sport from a player’s perspective.
Mings says “the home secretary is one of many people that oppose us taking the knee or refuse to defend it. We have our own set of beliefs and what we can do to help.”
England players performed the anti-racism gesture before their 1-0 victory over Croatia on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Patel had said in an interview with the GB News TV channel that she didn’t support people participating in “gesture politics.”
Spain has complained about the field conditions at the stadium where it is hosting its European Championship matches.
Spain coach Luis Enrique and some players say they are not satisfied with the less-than-perfect conditions of the grass at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville.
Spain dominated its match against Sweden on Monday but couldn’t capitalize on its many scoring chances. It was held to a 0-0 draw.
Pedri González says the field wasn’t the reason why the team was held but adds “it’s true that it wasn’t in its best condition.” He says he hopes the grass will improve ahead of Saturday’s match against Poland “so we can play a more comfortable match.”
The field at La Cartuja looked uneven and with dry spots.
All three of Spain’s group matches will be played in Seville.
Swedish striker Marcus Berg subjected to hate
The Swedish soccer federation has filed a police report after striker Marcus Berg was subjected to a flood of social media abuse and threats from fans after missing a late chance against Spain at the European Championship.
Berg couldn’t connect cleanly with the ball and missed the target when he had an open net in the second half of Monday’s 0-0 draw in Seville. He received a torrent of abuse online after the game and the team says some of the posts contained illegal threats that have been reported to Swedish police.
Berg says he turned off his social media channels but had been told about the threats.
He says “it was tough yesterday and tough last night. What happens on social media is really sad.”
Sweden coach Janne Anderson says the abuse toward Berg was “completely unacceptable.”
French soccer fans have gathered in Munich’s central Marienplatz square to sing songs and party before their team’s opening European Championship game against Germany.
The supporters have been singing “anyone who isn’t singing is a German,” several renditions of France’s national anthem and other songs while jumping and waving French flags.
They were being watching by small groups of police making sure that the supporters maintained hygiene measures against the coronavirus. But none of the fans were wearing masks or social distancing.
About 14,000 fans will be allowed into the stadium for the Euro 2020 match.
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov says fans should be free to make their own choice in response to players taking a knee before matches at the European Championship.
There were loud jeers inside the Saint Petersburg Stadium when Belgium’s players made the anti-racism gesture before the game against Russia on Saturday.
Finland’s players are deciding whether to take a knee before their game against Russia on Wednesday.
Cherchesov says he didn’t hear the jeers from spectators at the Belgium game because he was “focused on the game.”
Cherchesov says “I can only say that everyone makes their own choice and I don’t want to advise anything to anyone.”
Christian Eriksen’s collapse
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand has stepped up his criticism of UEFA for not giving his players the option to postpone the game against Finland in the wake of Christian Eriksen’s collapse.
Denmark was given the option by UEFA to either resume Saturday evening or come back at noon on Sunday. That has led to widespread anger in Denmark.
Hjulmand says “the only real leadership would have been to put the players on a bus and send them home.”
He pointed out that “with corona cases it’s possible to postpone a game for 48 hours. But with cardiac arrest, apparently it’s not.”
Finland coach Markku Kanerva is concerned his players might still be traumatized by Christian Eriksen’s collapse when they play Russia in their second game at the European Championship.
Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest during Denmark’s 1-0 loss to Finland in Copenhagen on Saturday and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator on the field.
Kanerva says “it is not an easy task all of a sudden to concentrate only on football because there were bigger things than football in play.”
Kanerva says “it is hard to estimate how the event with Eriksen affects different people. Of course we all have it in our minds.”
Finland plays Russia on Wednesday and will qualify for the last 16 with a victory.
Offensive nationalist comments
UEFA has asked a disciplinary investigator to look into claims that Austria forward Marko Arnautović made offensive nationalist comments to a North Macedonia opponent at the European Championship.
The North Macedonian soccer federation asked for action to be taken against Arnautović for the incident in Austria’s 3-1 victory on Sunday.
Arnautović scored Austria’s third goal late in the game then is said to have directed comments to Ezgjan Alioski in Serbian.
Alioski is of Albanian origin. Arnautović’s father is Serbian and his mother is Austrian.
UEFA disciplinary rules call for a minimum 10-match ban for insults based on race or ethnic origin.
Arnautović posted on social media that he was not a racist and apologized for “some heated words.”
A change has been made in England’s European Championship squad with injured backup goalkeeper Dean Henderson replaced by Aaron Ramsdale.
UEFA’s regulations allow in-tournament replacements of goalkeepers in Euro 2020 squads on medical grounds and Henderson has a hip issue.
Ramsdale was in the provisional squad for the tournament before being cut.
Jordan Pickford is England’s starting goalkeeper and is due to be the first choice in the second Group D game against Scotland. He also played in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Croatia.
Christian Eriksen has sent his first public message from the hospital thanking supporters for their “sweet and amazing” well-wishes after his collapse at the European Championship.
Eriksen remains in the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest during Denmark’s game against Finland in Copenhagen on Saturday. The Danish soccer association shared a message from Eriksen on Twitter.
The midfielder says he is fine “under the circumstances.” He says he still has to go through more tests at the hospital “but I feel okay.”
The message was accompanied by a photo of Eriksen giving a thumbs up from the hospital bed.
The North Macedonian soccer federation says it has submitted an official request to UEFA asking for Austria striker Marko Arnautović to be punished for a nationalist outburst after he scored a goal at the European Championship.
The federation says the outburst was directed at Ezgjan Alioski. Alioski is a North Macedonian of Albanian origin.
The federation says “we are always against nationalism, discrimination and all other forms of insults and outbursts that are not in the spirit of football.”
Arnautović scored the final goal in Austria’s 3-1 victory over North Macedonia at Euro 2020 on Sunday. He wrote in an Instagram post that he was sorry for what happened.
He acknowledged “some heated words in the emotions for which I would like to apologize.”
Arnautović then wrote in capital letters “I AM NOT A RACIST!”
The Albanian minority forms about a quarter of North Macedonia’s 2.1 million population.
The defending champions are on the schedule to play their first match at this year’s European Championship. And so are the last two World Cup champions.
Portugal will be up first on Day 5 of Euro 2020 against Hungary in Budapest. Cristiano Ronaldo is one goal from breaking a tie with Michel Platini for most goals scored at the tournament.
Portugal beat France in the final five years ago to win its first major soccer title.
World Cup champion France will then face Germany in the late match. The Germans won the previous World Cup title in 2014.