UEFA is not planning any imminent changes to the format for the upcoming Champions League knockout stages or to its plans to hold the delayed Euro 2020 this year despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and other sporting events being cancelled.
UEFA barrel ahead with tournament plans
“As far as the Euro is concerned nothing has changed,” a spokesperson for European football’s governing body told AFP.
Postponed last year, Euro 2020 is now scheduled to go ahead from June 11 to July 11 this year.
However, even if it does go ahead, it is uncertain whether it will be possible to stage the tournament as planned in 12 cities across 12 different countries, spread far and wide over the continent.
“Given the health situation, personally I think that the original idea of a competition spread all over Europe has little chance of going ahead,” Dominique Blanc, head of the Swiss Football Association, said in an interview with Swiss media this week.
The semi-finals and final are due to be played in London, but England is currently in lockdown as it grapples with an upsurge in infections related to a new variant of the Covid-19 virus.
The UEFA source told AFP that a decision will be made “city by city” by March 5 with four options on the table: “100 percent of spectators in the stadium, between 50 and 100 percent, between 20 and 30 percent, or behind closed doors.”
In recent days the Formula One Australian and Chinese Grand Prix were both postponed, while a prestigious World Cup skiing event at Wengen in Switzerland was called off due to increasing Covid-19 cases in the area.
Meanwhile, the European Champions and Challenge Cups in rugby union have been put on hold after the French government said the Covid-19 variant in Britain made it too risky for its clubs to face opponents from the United Kingdom.
The UEFA Champions League knockout stages are due to begin with the opening last 16, first legs on February 16.
Calls are growing in some quarters for athletes to be given priority access to vaccinations, but UEFA insist “it is too early to make any decision” regarding a new medical protocol for its competitions.
In his interview, Swiss FA chief Blanc floated two possible solutions for the Euro, with one being to hold the tournament in one country, “in Russia or in Germany, for example”.
Another would be to repeat the format for the closing stages of last year’s Champions League in Lisbon by bringing all teams together to play games in one city “with enough stadiums to host all six groups. That could be the case of London.”
In any case, he said, “we are heading towards a different Euro, undoubtedly without fans”.
Pitso Mosimane to have full Al Ahly squad available for Club World Cup
Pitso Mosimane will have his full Al Ahly squad to choose from for their upcoming Club World Cup campaign set to take place in Qatar in February.
READ | PITSO MOSIMANE: I’VE NEVER BEEN SO ANGRY SINCE ARRIVING IN EGYPT
The opening match of the tournament was due to be between Qatari champions Al Duhail and Auckland City of New Zealand.
However, Auckland City subsequently announced their withdrawal from the competition due to Covid-19.
As a result, the first round will no longer take place and Al Duhail will begin the competition from the second round where they were drawn against African champions, Al Ahly.
If Al Ahly manage to come out victorious in the match on 4 February, they will face European champions Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.
The team will travel with its full squad and will decide on the final squad 24 hours before the tournament, according to the club’s sporting director Sayed Abdelhafiz.
Meanwhile, Al Ahly will next be in domestic action on Tuesday, 26 January against Pyramids.
Kick-off is at 19:30 SA time.
READ | KAIZER CHIEFS’ WIN-STREAK ENDS AT STELLENBOSCH FC
Pitso Mosimane: The pressure at Al Ahly is something else
Al Ahly head coach Pitso Mosimane has opened up regarding the immense pressure that comes with coaching the North African giants.
Pitso Mosimane joined Al Ahly in October 2020 from Mamelodi Sundowns following a trophy-laden spell at the club in which he guided the Brazilians to league and cup honours while also leading them to the CAF Champions League crown.
Despite awakening the beast in Mamelodi Sundowns and turning the Pretoria side into the dominant club in South Africa, Mosimane claims that the pressure he faced at the Brazilians to win is nothing when compared to what he’s dealing with at Al Ahly.
The pressure at Al Ahly is something else – Pitso Mosimane
Pitso Mosimane’s start to life at Al Ahly could not have been better with the Kagiso born mastermind wrapping up the Egyptian Premier League in near perfect fashion, triumphing in the Egyptian Cup and most importantly ending a seven year CAF Champions League title drought at the club.
Mosimane’s Al Ahly currently sit atop the Egyptian Premier League log standings after eight games however rivals Zamalek sit one point behind Al Ahly with a game in hand. Despite his blistering to life in Egypt, Mosimane and Al Ahly are still under immense pressure to continue performing at their best.
“We need to know that it’s huge‚ it’s tough. It’s expectations‚ it’s pressure.” Pitso Mosimane told SAFJA during a virtual press conference as quoted by TimesLive.
“If you think I had pressure at Mamelodi Sundowns‚ no my friend‚ I have pressure here. Now this is real stuff. You draw one game‚ you lose one game‚ you are on the edge. So you have got to win.”
Pitso Mosimane and Al Ahly next face Pyramids FC in a crunch League clash next week before flying out to Qatar for the Fifa Club World Cup.
Mosimane’s Al Ahly face Qatar outfit Al Dhuail FC, if they beat the hosts they’ll then book their place in the semi-finals where UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich await.
Pitso Mosimane: I’ve never been so angry since arriving in Egypt
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane says he’s never been so “angry” with his team since his arrival in Egypt as he was on Thursday night.
READ | PITSO MOSIMANE ACCUSED OF DESTROYING RISING AL AHLY TALENT
The Egyptians giants completed a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Arab Contractors to move back to the top of the standings.
Al Ahly found themselves 2-0 down at half-time, but second half goals from Taher Mohamed Taher (60th minute), Mohamed Sherif (70th minute) and Mohamed Magdy Afsha (80th minute), helped them emerge victorious.
Commenting during the post-match press conference, Pitso Mosimane praised his players for their efforts, but said that they should’ve done better with their chances.
READ | BENNI MCCARTHY SHOWS FIRST PLAYER THE DOOR AT AMAZULU
“I don’t think the two halves of the match were different because we were able to create chances in both of them.
“In the first half, we created a lot of opportunities in the first 10-15 minutes, and we should have taken advantage of them. This also happened in the Bank Al Ahly game.
“This means that there is a problem and we must address it.
“I think we like to play under pressure. Today we were able to come back in the result and win, and this is dangerous because it may not happen next time.
“But the positive part is the spirit of the players and the fight and always having faith in our ability to win,” Pitso Mosimane added.
READ | CRISTIANO RONALDO SCORES 760 CAREER GOAL BUT IS IT A WORLD RECORD?
Mosimane revealed how he reacted at half-time in order to push his players to fight in the second half.
“Since my arrival in Egypt, I have not gotten angry at the players as much as today. I always try to be calm, but today we were not good.” Mosimane admitted.
“I must also praise the technical staff because we made some strange decisions that changed the way we play. We took different decisions, but they had positive consequences.
“I changed the way of playing three times in the second half and we were running against time. We had to score quick goals to turn the game around.
“At one point I made Afsha play in the No 8 position instead of 10, and pushed Marwan Mohsen and Mohamed Sherif as strikers.
“I also put Hamdi Fathi in the defensive line, and we sometimes played 3-4-3,” Pitso Mosimane explained.
Following their win, Al Ahly are now back on top of the log with 20 points, one ahead of second-placed bitter rivals Zamalek who have a game in hand.
Al Ahly will next be in action on Tuesday, 26 January against sixth-placed Pyramids FC.
Kick-off is at 19:30 SA time.
IN CLOSING | THULANI SERERO ENDS SPECULATION BY SIGNING NEW DEAL