Italy's scheduled upcoming friendly in Germany has been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the German Football Association (DFB) has confirmed.

Sport in Italy - including Serie A - has been shut down until April 3, with the country suffering over 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,266 deaths - the worst figures outside of China.

Meanwhile, the Bundesliga has also been suspended. Germany has close to 4,000 cases and eight deaths.

International football has been allowed to continue, in theory, although FIFA has recommended the postponement of fixtures.

An international break is set for the weekend before April 3, yet clubs will no longer be required to release their players following a FIFA Council decision.

And with events of more than 100 people banned in Nuremberg, where Italy were set to face Germany, the March 31 fixture has unsurprisingly been called off.

Italy's friendly meeting with England was postponed on Friday.

Further calls on international fixtures are anticipated, with World Cup qualifiers in Asia and South America already pushed back.

Top-flight football is continuing behind closed doors in Serbia, but Football Association of Serbia (FSS) president Slavisa Kokeza has now tested positive for coronavirus.

"We want to emphasise that the president of the football organisation is under medical supervision and is well and the Football Association is continuing its regular activities," a statement from the FSS read.

Serbia have a Euro 2020 play-off against Norway in the diary for March 26, although UEFA is set to make a call on the scheduling of the finals in a meeting on Tuesday.

UEFA has not received a single request to postpone Euro 2020 amid concerns about coronavirus, despite claims to the contrary.

COVID-19 is starting to cause widespread disruption to sport across Europe, particularly in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Italy is the most-affected European nation, with 9,172 cases of infection reported as of Tuesday, and that has led to all sporting activities being postponed until April 3.

In Spain, fans have been prohibited from attending games at all levels over the next two matchdays, though that could change after the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) requested all action be postponed instead.

Euro 2020, which will be played across 12 European nations, is set to begin in Rome on June 12 – though reports on Tuesday suggested some federations have asked for the tournament be delayed until 2021.

UEFA insists no such requests have been received, however.

A spokesperson told Stats Perform: "We did not receive a single request from national associations to postpone the tournament."

Along with Italy, Euro 2020 is scheduled to be hosted in Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Spain.

As the coronavirus crisis deepens, European football is continuing to deal with its consequences.

We take a look at how COVID-19 has affected the top five leagues, as well as associated players and teams.

 

Italy

Serie A, Serie B, Coppa Italia – POSTPONED

Following a government decree issued on Monday, all public gathering are prohibited until April 3, with the whole country put on lockdown.

This directly impacts domestic football, which has been postponed. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) is exploring alternatives if the Serie A season – which is constrained by international deadlines relating to Euro 2020 – cannot run its course.

The three suggestions the FIGC has put forward are: to end the season early and crown the leader at that point as champions; halt the 2019-20 campaign without any team winning the title; or have play-offs for the Scudetto and relegation spots.

Germany

Bundesliga, 2.Bundesliga – ACTIVE

The situation in Germany is being dealt with on a case-by-case basis in local regions and is yet to cause widespread disruption to the two highest divisions, however COVID-19 is spreading rapidly.

Bavaria's government has prohibited events with more than 1,000 people until April 19, in a move that will impact Bayern Munich and Augsburg from the Bundesliga.

Die Roten's Champions League meeting with Chelsea next Wednesday will take place in an empty Allianz Arena, though their away match against Union Berlin this weekend is set to go ahead as normal.

Next Wednesday's Rhine derby between Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne has already been confirmed as the first Bundesliga game to be played with no fans.

Germany's Euro 2020 warm-up friendly against Italy on March 31 will also be behind closed doors.

France

Ligue 1, Ligue 2 – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

After a previous government decision had announced matches could only be played in front of a maximum of 1,000 fans, authorities have since demanded all games go ahead with no spectators until April 15.

Paris Saint-Germain have already had their meeting with Strasbourg – initially set for last weekend – postponed due to coronavirus, while their upcoming Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund will be played without fans.

LaLiga

LaLiga, La Segunda – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

It was confirmed on Tuesday that all sporting events in Spain will be played behind closed doors over the next two weeks.

However, following the request of Segunda side Real Zaragoza to postpone all matches instead, the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) added weight to such a call, insisting Spain should be following the lead of countries like Italy and Switzerland.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is set to make a decision on Friday regarding the friendly with Germany at the Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid on March 26.

England

Premier League, the Football League – ACTIVE

As of March 10, English football is yet to be directly impacted by COVID-19.

However, Championship side Nottingham Forest confirmed on Tuesday their owner Evangelos Marinakis had tested positive for the virus.

It is unclear how that will impact on Forest and the division as a whole.

The coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on the sporting calendar. 

Further measures to prevent the spread of the virus were taken on Tuesday, affecting a plethora of sports and leagues.

More events were subject to postponements, while games taking place in empty arenas will become a regular sight in the coming weeks.

Here we look at the sporting decisions announced as the world attempts to tackle the outbreak.

 

In France, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 games will be played behind closed doors until April 15. France's minister for sport Roxana Maracineanu had on Monday said games could be played with a limit of 1,000 fans, but the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) confirmed on Tuesday that no fans will be permitted. Earlier, Maracineanu called for fans to show "responsibility" and avoid "any damaging impact on public order" when Paris Saint-Germain play Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The friendly between Germany and Italy, set to take place on March 31 in Nuremberg, will now be played behind closed doors, the German Football Association (DFB) confirmed. Additionally, there will be no fans at the Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin on March 14.

Also in Germany, the rearranged Bundesliga match between rivals Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne, which was originally cancelled due to Storm Ciara, will now be played behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Gladbach CEO Stephan Schippers expressed his concern at a news conference, saying: "From a commercial perspective, you can't plan for something like this. 

"We will lose €2million per game. We have insurance against games that are called off, but not if they are played behind closed doors. That will hurt all clubs, including Borussia, financially.

"Fans have the right to be reimbursed. The settlement process will be discussed, but for now we need to see if more games will also follow. In that sense, we will find the right solution."

All sporting activity in Italy is suspended until April 3 by the country's Olympic Committee. In a statement, the committee conceded it does not have jurisdiction over international competitions. Following that, it was confirmed the Champions League clash between Barcelona and Napoli at Camp Nou on March 18 will go ahead behind closed doors. The Italian club insisted reports claiming they wanted the match to be postponed were "fake news".

The PGA of America and PGA Tour have rejected suggestions the US PGA Championship, which is to be held from May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park, could be moved from San Francisco after this week's tennis tournaments in Indian Wells were cancelled. 

"They [PGA of America officials] are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. "There is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It's going to be held at TPC Harding Park."

However, the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, which was scheduled for April 3-5 in Austin, is postponed and will instead take place in November.

In the first indication that coronavirus could impact the NCAA men's basketball tournament, also known as March Madness, in the United States, the Ivy League announced its postseason tournament is cancelled. Yale have been declared Ivy League champions and will represent it in March Madness.

Wales will follow the advice of Italian authorities on whether Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey will be allowed to leave the country to take part in their home matches with Austria and USA later this month, amid the lockdown on travel in Italy.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport released a statement insisting there was "no rationale" to postponing sporting events at this stage in the United Kingdom. Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said the message sporting authorities had received from the government was "let's not panic".

Matches in Poland's top flight, the Ekstraklasa, will be played without supporters until further notice. The Europa League final is scheduled to be played in Gdansk on May 27.

Ticket sales for Northern Ireland's away Euro 2020 play-off match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 26 have been suspended amid fears over the outbreak.

The Euro 2020 play-off match between the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played with no fans present on the instruction of the Slovakian government, with all supporters who bought tickets to be refunded.

The owner of Greek side Olympiacos and Championship club Nottingham Forest, Evangelos Marinakis, has confirmed he has contracted COVID-19. He wrote on Instagram: "The virus has 'visited' me and I felt obliged to let the public know. I feel good as I take all the necessary measures and I discipline to the doctors' instructions."

France and Croatia will play out a repeat of their World Cup final having been drawn in the same group in the 2020-21 Nations League with defending champions Portugal, while Germany and Spain will go head-to-head.

Fernando Santos' side won the inaugural competition last year, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final thanks to Goncalo Guedes, though Group 3 looks set to significantly test their mettle this time around – Sweden also joining them with Croatia and France.

The format of the competition changes slightly this time around, with the groups containing four teams rather than three, but as before the top team from each of the four groups in League A will meet in the Nations League finals.

Italy will fancy their chances of reaching the final stages having been drawn with Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Netherlands, the latter likely their biggest challengers.

In Group 4, Germany and Spain will be the favourites ahead of Ukraine and Switzerland, while England and Belgium are in Group 2 with Iceland and Denmark.

The competition will commence in early September, with the Finals set for June 2021.

League A

Group 1: Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Netherlands

Group 2: Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, England

Group 3: Croatia, Sweden, France, Portugal

Group 4: Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Switzerland

LEAGUE B

Group 1: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, Romania

Group 2: Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia, Israel

Group 3: Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary

Group 4: Wales, Finland, Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria

 

LEAGUE C

Group 1: Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro

Group 2: Armenia, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia

Group 3: Moldova, Slovenia, Kosovo, Greece

Group 4: Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Belarus, Albania

 

LEAGUE D

Group 1: Malta, Andorra, Latvia, Faroe Islands

Group 2: San Marino, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar

Thomas Muller says he is "not interested" in returning to the Germany squad after Joachim Low rated his chances of a recall as "relatively low".

Head coach Low shocked German football in March 2019 when he announced World Cup-winning stalwarts Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were no longer in his plans.

Muller, who has 100 caps for Germany, said at the time he was "totally dumbfounded by this decision out of the blue".

The 30-year-old has been in fine form since the turn of the year, scoring in four consecutive games for Bayern before Sunday's 0-0 draw with Bundesliga title rivals RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena.

Some had suggested this could be enough to persuade Low to reconsider his position on Muller, but the Germany coach told Sky on Sunday: "The probability [of a recall] is relatively low if everyone is fit.

"Thomas has scored a few times in the second half of the season. I am pleased, but I said we would go with the young players. That is what we have to maintain.

"However, if things should happen that you do not expect, it is clear you will have to look again."

Speaking after the draw with Leipzig, Muller said: "I'm not interested in it at all. I care about this team [Bayern] and winning trophies with them, ideally three."

Sunday's result means Bayern remain one point ahead of Leipzig at the Bundesliga summit.

Germany's 1966 World Cup goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski has passed away aged 84, with Geoff Hurst and his former club Borussia Dortmund leading the tributes.

Tilkowski played in the famous World Cup final between England and West Germany at Wembley in 1966, in which Hurst scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for the hosts.

Hurst's second goal, which came in the 101st minute following a 2-2 draw in normal time, remains controversial to this day, as it was unclear whether the ball had crossed the line.

On Monday, Dortmund confirmed Tilkowski, who spent four years at the club between 1963 and 1967, winning the DFB-Pokal and the European Cup Winners' Cup, had died on Sunday after a long illness.

Hurst, England's hero of their only World Cup triumph, led the tributes to Tilkowski on social media, posting on Twitter: "Very sad to receive a call earlier to let me know that Germany's goalkeeper from 66 World Cup, Hans Tilkowski, has died.

"Terrific player for his club, Borussia Dortmund, and country and a very fine man, I very much enjoyed the time we spent together over the years.

"Sending kindest thoughts especially to his family, very touched that they called to let me know, and sincere condolences to all his friends and fans. Very sad indeed."

Nemanja Matic admits it is tough to pick a favourite for Euro 2020 but believes England have "their best team in the last 20 years" ahead of the tournament.

Next year's finals will see 24 nations involved, with the final four spots to be decided by play-offs in March.

Reigning champions Portugal will be aiming to defend their title, while France - beaten on home soil in the final in 2016 - are out to follow up their success at the World Cup last year.

Matic hopes to help Serbia to glory, though he will not be surprised if two of the leading contenders are left fighting it out for the trophy at Wembley Stadium on July 12.

As for England, who would have home advantage should they progress to the semi-finals and final, the Manchester United midfielder is impressed by the talent available to Gareth Southgate, who steered the Three Lions to the last four in Russia.

"It's hard to say who my favourite is [for Euro 2020]," Matic told Omnisport.

“My favourite is my country, but I think Germany are always dangerous. Croatia have a good team, they played in the final of the World Cup.

“Spain are an amazing team, France too. It's hard to say who the favourite is.

“With England, I think it's time to make something. We'll see if they're ready. I think England now has their best team in the last 20 years, maybe I'm not right, but that's my opinion.

Manuel Neuer insists suggestions of a rift with fellow Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen were blown out of proportion.

Earlier this year, Bayern Munich's first-choice keeper Neuer criticised his Barca counterpart for making "inappropriate" comments over his disappointment at not playing more regularly for Die Mannschaft.

However, Neuer later talked up the qualities of Ter Stegen, who has become one of the best number ones in the world at Camp Nou, and the former Schalke stopper says there was never an issue between the two.

"In principle, far too much was made of it," Neuer told Kicker. "I've never had a problem with Marc. 

"We train for the national team together. We sit together at breakfast, have a normal conversation - as team-mates, not as competitors.

"Each of us tries to show our best performance for the team so that we can be successful. This is important because we play in a team."

On Sunday, Bayern confirmed Hansi Flick would remain in charge at the Allianz Arena until the end of the season having overseen eight wins from 10 matches across all competitions since taking over from Niko Kovac.

Neuer says Flick has earned his chance to lead Bayern.

"He's been doing great so far. He has a great connection to the team, communicates things very clearly," he added. 

"He definitely deserves the chance right now."

Leroy Sane's proposed switch to Bayern Munich would give the Bundesliga a welcome boost, according to Germany head coach Joachim Low.

Bayern went public with their interest in the Manchester City winger prior to the season starting.

The Bavarian giants shelved their transfer plans when Sane suffered a serious knee injury in August, but a new report claims the Schalke product has his heart set on joining Bayern.

According to Bild, Sane wants the move to go ahead in January as he steps up his recovery.

Low told the newspaper: "When a player like Sane returns to the Bundesliga, it is very enjoyable for everyone.

"He has many special features, his own style of play. He would be an attraction for the Bundesliga. Sane would keep the Bundesliga attractive."

The 23-year-old returned to the training pitch on Monday, completing an isolated session.

Germany boss Low gave Sane his international debut in November 2015 and took him to the European Championship the following year, but declined to offer advice on whether he should leave the Premier League ahead of Euro 2020.

"It's up to the player and Bayern Munich," he said.

Sane joined City from Schalke in August 2016 for a fee in the region of £37million.

His contract at the Etihad Stadium expires at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Leon Goretzka praised Hansi Flick following reports Bayern Munich are looking to unite him with Thomas Tuchel in a new coaching team.

German publication Bild suggested interim boss Flick could be kept on as an assistant at Allianz Arena if the Bundesliga side succeed in prising Tuchel from Paris Saint-Germain.

Flick took charge in a caretaker capacity following Niko Kovac's departure in November and has overseen four wins and a defeat in all competitions.

Chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reaffirmed his support for the 54-year-old following the weekend loss to Bayer Leverkusen, a result midfielder Goretzka insisted was not Flick's fault.

"He told us what we did well and what we did badly," the Germany international told news portal T-Online.

"We knew how we wanted to defend the counter-attack, but in the moment we did not do it well. But that will be different in the next games."

Goretzka added: "He's doing a very good job.

"The coach question is not for me to decide, that's what others do. But he definitely recommended himself [through Bayern's results] in the last few weeks."

Goretzka made his second Bundesliga start of the season in the Leverkusen encounter and will hope for further opportunities to press his case for Euro 2020 selection with Germany.

Joachim Low's men have been dealt a tough draw for the tournament, with holders Portugal and World Cup winners France joining them in Group F.

"What is difficult for me to understand is how such a group can come about," Goretzka said.

"I don't think we will go in as favourites, as we would normally expect at a European Championship.

"Nevertheless, we always have the claim to progress. I do not see any problem either. They are big challenges.

"We will try to spark euphoria in the country with the fans behind us and then continue on our way."

Christoph Kramer has signed a new deal that will keep him at Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach until 2023.

The 28-year-old Germany international joined Gladbach in 2016 from Bayer Leverkusen after enjoying the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons on loan at Borussia-Park.

Kramer's contract was due to run out at the end of the season, but he has agreed fresh terms to stay on for another three-and-a-half years.

Sporting director Max Eberl told the club's official website: "Christoph has become one of the leading figures in our team in recent years. Both as a footballer and as an opinionated character in the dressing room, he's become massively important and we're pleased to be extending his contract."

Midfielder Kramer has appeared 171 times for Gladbach in all competitions, scoring 10 goals.

Marco Rose's side lead the way at the top of Bundesliga after winning nine of their opening 13 matches.

Niklas Sule is determined to prove Uli Hoeness wrong as the injured defender aims to recover full fitness in time for Euro 2020.

The Bayern Munich centre-back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a Bundesliga game in October.

The serious injury was expected to end Sule's season and former Bayern president Hoeness told him to forget about representing Germany at the Euros.

But the 24-year-old said his rehabilitation is going well and could lead to an early comeback.

"The knee's fine, I'm ahead in the healing process. That speaks to the good work of the surgeon," Sule told reporters at a Bayern fan event.

"For me, the European Championship is clearly the goal and I assume that I can and will do it.

"I work for it every day. I hope to return to the team in March or April and then it's absolutely within feasible range. It's a tough journey but I know I can do it."

Asked about the likelihood of achieving his target, Sule added: "For my part, 100 percent."

Sule made his international debut in 2016 and has gone on to win 24 caps for Germany.

Joachim Low's men will face holders Portugal and World Cup winners France in a tough Group F at next year's tournament.

Fernando Santos has claimed defending champions Portugal are outsiders in a Euro 2020 group containing "two favourites" in France and Germany.

The three heavyweights were drawn together in a tough-looking Group F for next year's tournament, with a play-off contestant still to be added.

France and Germany will enter as winners of the past two World Cups, while Portugal are preparing to defend the trophy they unexpectedly won in 2016.

Santos' side were also crowned inaugural Nations League champions in June but the wily 65-year-old coach quickly positioned his team as underdogs.

"It will be a strong group, two favourites and a candidate," Santos told reporters.

"[France and Germany] have a responsibility to win and they have to assume that responsibility. We will believe in our possibilities. We come as candidates and obviously we want to win.

"Two world champions, a European champion and winner of the Nations League – I think this is a group that nobody wanted because each team wanted to avoid the other two.

"Everyone will respect each other and just wait to see who will be the fourth."

Portugal finished second behind Ukraine in their qualifying group, losing once and drawing twice in eight games.

Didier Deschamps accepted France faced a huge test at Euro 2020 as Germany coach Joachim Low had no doubt Group F was the "group of death".

World champions France were drawn alongside Euro 2016 winners Portugal and Germany, plus a play-off winner, in the group on Saturday.

Deschamps acknowledged his team would be challenged in Group F, which will be played in Budapest and Munich.

"It's a difficult group, but I think that Joachim Low and Portugal head coach [Fernando Santos] think the same thing. It's the hardest group, but we have to accept it," he said.

"We will need to be ready at the beginning of the competition because our first game will be against Germany in Munich. They will play at home.

"On paper, it's a tough group. These two teams have many qualities and they recently had good results."

France's first match will be against Germany at the Allianz Arena on June 16 before playing two games in Budapest.

Deschamps said: "It could be better, but what can we do? Germany and Portugal are in our group. We know when we will play and where.

"We still have to wait to know our third opponent. But we already know the quality of two of our opponents. So we can prepare to be ready for the match day."

Low was surprisingly happy about getting the opportunity to play against France and Portugal, but said it was undoubtedly the toughest group.

"At first I feel joy because these are highlight games against France and Portugal. We play against the reigning world champions and European champions," the Germany coach said.

"I think the players are also looking forward to these games. Of course it's a group of death. Everyone in this group has to go to the limit if they want to get ahead.

"But I think that these games will be football festivals. Then we also play in Germany. I'm looking forward to it."

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