Coronavirus: UEFA to produce qualification guidelines in cases of cancelled leagues

By Sports Desk April 21, 2020

UEFA is to produce guidelines outlining qualification criteria for its competitions from domestic leagues that cannot be completed but once again recommended they should be finished if possible.

The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with the footballing schedule, with the 2019-20 season suspended indefinitely across the majority of Europe, which resulted in Euro 2020 being pushed back by a year.

Both the Champions League and Europa League finals were postponed in March after it became apparent hosting them on their original dates was not feasible.

As yet there is no concrete date set for the resumption of a suspended European league, while UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin conceded the campaign would likely be lost if seasons cannot resume by the end of June.

In a video conference with its 55 member nations on Tuesday, UEFA said any decisions taken will be announced after the executive committee convenes on Thursday.

A statement read: "UEFA met its 55 member associations via video conference and presented an update of the options being looked into by the two working groups that were created mid-March. 

"A variety of calendar options were presented covering both national team and club competition matches.

"The funding of national associations through UEFA's HatTrick programme was also discussed with UEFA reiterating its commitment to meeting the payments to member associations as planned.

"There was a strong recommendation given to finish domestic top divisions and cup competitions, but some special cases will be heard once guidelines concerning participation to European competitions - in case of a cancelled league - have been developed."

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  • Inter leave themselves with too much to do as Champions League hopes dwindle Inter leave themselves with too much to do as Champions League hopes dwindle

    Antonio Conte is under pressure and, as Wednesday's Champions League loss to Real Madrid illustrated, Inter's tendency to put unnecessary strain on themselves is a big reason why.

    After an excellent first season that saw Inter finish second in Serie A behind Juventus and reach the Europa League final, Inter have failed to take the anticipated next step.

    They are fifth in Serie A and trail arch rivals and early leaders Milan by five points, while their Champions League campaign is teetering on the brink after a performance at San Siro that laid bare one of their primary failings so far this season.

    Too often in 2020, Inter have left themselves an uphill battle by having to come from behind.

    Seven of their 15 points in the Italian top flight have come from losing positions, with Inter coming back from two goals down to draw with Parma and beat Torino - those fightbacks sandwiched by a 1-1 draw with Atalanta - in the last three games.

    Such recoveries are rarely possible against a team of Madrid's quality, and Inter were behind inside seven minutes, Eden Hazard converting from the penalty spot after Nico Barella had fouled Nacho in the area.

    Inter erased a 2-0 deficit in the reverse fixture only to lose 3-2, but no such resolve was on show this time around.

    Madrid were in control throughout, Inter left chasing the game and creating little. Lucas Vazquez hit the post in the 13th minute with a vicious drive and four minutes later the Madrid winger saw another chance go begging as a Ferland Mendy pull-back proved too strong for him to make a telling connection.

    When Arturo Vidal, who laid on the latter opportunity with a sloppy pass, was sent off for successive yellow cards for dissent after being denied a penalty by referee Anthony Taylor, Inter had a mountain to climb.

    The game was effectively over after Rodrygo volleyed in at the far post from a sublime cross from Vazquez, whose excellent performance saw him complete nearly 94 per cent of his passes in the Inter half.

    His precision in that regard was reflective of the pattern of the game, Madrid played 792 passes to Inter's 481 and completed 92.3 per cent to the Nerazzurri's 86.7 per cent.

    The result was a stark disparity in possession, which Madrid dominated with 62 per cent of the ball, and a one-sided contest indicative of the divergent paths these two teams are on in European football.

    While second-placed Madrid are on course to qualify for the last 16 with seven points from four games behind Borussia Monchengladbach in Group B, Inter face a struggle to even get back into the Europa League, having claimed only two points from their four outings.

    Inter's superior quality to many of their Serie A rivals allows them to come from behind on a regular basis and stay in the title fight.

    As Madrid reminded Conte's side, the Champions League is not so accommodating and their participation in the competition will soon be coming to an end unless they can produce a quite remarkable turnaround.

  • Diego Maradona dies: The Golden Boy leaves an eternal legacy Diego Maradona dies: The Golden Boy leaves an eternal legacy

    Football has produced few more divisive figures than Diego Maradona.

    The Argentina great died on Wednesday at the age of 60 following a cardiac arrest and, while opinions on his legacy may differ depending on where you live, his remarkable impression on the game is undoubted.

    The abiding image of Maradona for most likely stems from the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England.

    For so many in England, he will forever be remembered for arguably the most controversial goal in the history of football, which saw the diminutive Maradona somehow rise above the comparatively towering figure of Peter Shilton and divert a sliced clearance from Steve Hodge into the empty net with his hand.

    But that act of what can at best be considered deceit did not take away from the majesty of his ultimately decisive second goal, dubbed the Goal of the Century, with the balletic grace with which he weaved past the helpless England defenders before rounding Shilton and slotting home the defining memory of Maradona for his adoring fans in his home country and scores of fans around the world.

    That game perhaps encapsulated the man known as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy). As England striker Gary Lineker, who scored the goal overshadowed by Maradona's brace at Estadio Azteca, said in a tweet paying tribute following news of his death, the Albiceleste legend led a "blessed but troubled life".

    Raised in a poor family in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona's blessings were evident from an early age. At just eight years old, his promise was discovered by a scout, Francisco Cornejo, and he was signed to the youth team of Argentinos Juniors.

    "He did things that I have never seen anyone else do," Cornejo, who died in 2008, later said of Maradona.

    Maradona made his Argentinos debut 10 days before turning 16 and marked it in fitting fashion by nutmegging an opponent within minutes of entering the pitch.

    One hundred and sixteen goals in 166 games for Argentinos followed and resulted in Maradona receiving a dream move to Boca Juniors, though his spell at La Bombonera yielded only one league title and was marked by a difficult relationship with coach Silvio Marzolini before he moved to Barcelona in a world-record transfer in 1982.

    Barca did not see Maradona at his best at the 1982 World Cup in Spain that preceded his debut for the Blaugrana, yet the impact he had on his cohorts at Camp Nou was stark.

    "He had complete mastery of the ball," former team-mate Lobo Carrasco remarked. "When Maradona ran with the ball or dribbled through the defence, he seemed to have the ball tied to his boots."

    His time in Catalonia delivered both brilliance and tumult in equal measure. Maradona became the first Barca player to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu in 1983, but sustained a career-threatening ankle injury against Athletic Bilbao and was then involved in a brawl against the same opposition in the 1984 Copa del Rey final that hastened his exit from the club.

    It was perhaps no surprise that the pinnacle of his international career coincided with that of his club career at Napoli, for whom Maradona will forever be an icon.

    After being named player of the tournament at the '86 World Cup, Maradona inspired Napoli to their first Serie A title and triumph in the Coppa Italia. UEFA Cup glory followed in 1989 prior to a second league title a year later.

    Napoli's Stadio San Paolo was the scene of glory for Argentina in a World Cup semi-final win over Italy, in which Maradona scored the ultimately decisive penalty in the shoot-out, though he could not ensure a successful title defence as West Germany prevailed in the final.

    Italian football saw the best of Maradona, whom Franco Baresi described as his toughest opponent - "when he was on form, there was almost no way of stopping him," the Milan legend said.

    Yet it also saw significant off-field struggles and he left Napoli after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine, battling his addiction to the drug and alcohol until 2004.

    He returned to Argentina by signing for Newell's Old Boys after a turbulent spell with Sevilla, with his international career ended in the wake of a positive test for ephedrine doping during the 1994 World Cup that resulted in him being sent home from the United States.

    Retirement came on the back of a second two-year stint at Boca, but Maradona was rarely out of the spotlight even as he fought addiction and struggles with obesity, undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2005.

    His post-playing career also saw a string of brief coaching tenures, which included him leading Argentina to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, where they were thumped 4-0 by Germany. Maradona made sure his departure was fittingly acrimonious, levelling accusations of betrayal at the national team's hierarchy.

    Maradona had seemingly found some stability in his coaching career at Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata when he was admitted to hospital this month having recently renewed his contract through the 2020-21 season.

    "We live an unforgettable story," Gimnasia posted in a tribute on Twitter.

    Blessed but troubled, tempestuous yet utterly bewitching to watch. Gimnasia's words struck the right chord.

    His story was undeniably unforgettable and it is telling that, despite Lionel Messi's otherworldly exploits, it is Maradona who stands as the symbol of Argentinian football for so many.

    As Messi wrote of Maradona on Instagram: "He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal."

    Whether it's the Hand of God or the Goal of the Century, his presentation to hordes of Napoli fans or that goal celebration at the 94 World Cup. Maradona was the artist behind so many of the game's indelible images. Football is mourning the premature passing of an all-time great, but his legacy and impact will endure for decades to come.

  • Atletico Madrid 0-0 Lokomotiv Moscow: VAR denies Koke as Simeone's men are held Atletico Madrid 0-0 Lokomotiv Moscow: VAR denies Koke as Simeone's men are held

    Atletico Madrid's chances of finishing top of Champions League Group A are over after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Lokomotiv Moscow, with Koke having a goal ruled out by VAR.

    Diego Simeone's side – without star forward Luis Suarez after the Uruguay international tested positive for coronavirus – needed to win on Wednesday in order to keep slim hopes of pipping holders Bayern Munich to top spot alive.

    Yet, despite a bright start in which Joao Felix and Yannick Carrasco went close, Atleti failed to overcome their Russian opponents for a second successive match.

    Koke had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside decision, with Jose Gimenez heading wide late on as Atleti were frustrated.

     

     

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