It's entirely possible the staging of the 2021 European Under-21 Championship will have passed many people by, given the fact it's taken on a somewhat peculiar format of a mid-season group stage with the knockout phase following two months later.

Originally due to take place solely in June, organisers were forced into a re-think following last year's postponement of the senior competition. It was decided to split the Under-21s' event in two, therefore avoiding a clash.

Despite the rather unconventional format, the competition will see many of the continent's most-promising prodigies on display.

The tournament, based in Hungary and Slovenia, begins on Wednesday with the Magyars hosting Germany, and we have identified some high-potential talents to keep an eye on.

Alban Lafont, France – Goalkeeper

Lafont has been a regular at this age-group level with France for many years, but a brief stint at Fiorentina in 2018-19 did not go to plan, with the Toulouse youth product freely admitting his performances "were not the best" as he secured to a loan move to Nantes ahead of last season.

Only Andrea Consigli (six) made more than Lafont's four errors leading to shots in Serie A two seasons ago, but his dependability appears to have improved considerably since returning to France, with no shots occurring because of errors by him in 57 Ligue 1 matches.

He also produced a particularly strong performance in the shock 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month, making four saves including a couple of eye-catching stops to thwart Angel Di Maria.

 

A closer at Lafont’s performances for a struggling Nantes side in 2020-21 reveals he has not had the greatest campaign. When discounting own goals and penalties by the opposition, Lafont has allowed 3.5 goals more than the ‘average’ goalkeeper would have been expected to concede in Ligue 1 this season (37 conceded, 33.5 xG on target).

The metric ‘Goals Prevented Rate’ can account for different goalkeepers facing a different volume of shots through a period of time. An example of this is that PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas has a goals prevented rate of 1.37 this season, meaning for every non-penalty goal that Navas has conceded (excluding own goals), the average goalkeeper would be expected to concede 1.37. Lafont’s rate of 0.91 this season is 10th out of 17 goalkeepers to have played 1800 minutes of French top-flight football in 2020-21.

 

Additionally, France's regular at this level knows he has a very capable understudy in Illan Meslier breathing down his neck.

Prior to his 21st birthday earlier in the month, Meslier broke the record for the most clean sheets by an under-21 goalkeeper in a single Premier League season (eight) and has since added another to that figure.

That means he has three times as many shutouts as Lafont, which is intriguing because it raises the question of why then has Meslier not conceded fewer goals?

For starters, it suggests Lafont is more consistent but also highlights that when Leeds concede, the floodgates can really burst open. With those 46 goals spread across 19 matches, it means Meslier is conceding on average 2.5 goals per game when he doesn't get a clean sheet – this drops to 1.7 for Lafont.

 

On top of that, Meslier's seven errors leading to shots is more than any other player in the Premier League this term, perhaps showing he's still in the inexperienced, nervous phase that Lafont has seemingly left behind.

Meslier's superior save percentage of 71.1 compared to 65.7 speaks to the former Lorient youngster's shot-stopping abilities, though for the time being Lafont's greater consistency looks set to keep him first-choice.

Sven Botman, Netherlands – Central Defender

A promising loan spell with Heerenveen last season alerted Lille to the talents of Ajax-owned Botman and he has been a real hit for Les Dogues since a reported €8m move, helping them to mount a serious Ligue 1 title challenge.

Lille's 19 goals conceded is the fewest in France's top tier and, while not necessarily entirely down to Botman, there's no doubt he's made his presence known as a reliable powerhouse at the back.

 

Of the 856 players across Europe's top five leagues to have engaged in at least 150 duels, Botman's 71.4 per cent success rate is the best, and that competitiveness is also reflected in his aerial prowess.

Only four of the 157 players in the continent's elite divisions to have been involved in 100+ aerial duels have a better success rate than the Dutch youngster (72.5 per cent).

While his impressive physical attributes might lead to certain assumptions about his style of play, Botman is more than a brutish centre-back, as proven by the fact his 452 ball carries – defined as a player moving five metres or more with the ball – is the fourth highest among Ligue 1 central defenders.

 

Of course, there is likely to be a glaring absence from the senior Dutch side at Euro 2020. with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp not expecting Virgil van Dijk to be ready for the tournament.

That means there is potentially a spot up for grabs in the centre of the Netherlands defence, and Botman's combination of power and elegance suggests he could be a good fit as Van Dijk's deputy.

Granted, the young defender – who hasn't been capped at senior level yet – still has a way to go to match up to the Reds star, but in the context of young defenders of a similar ilk, Botman certainly compares well and his strengths are similar to those of Van Dijk.

His aerial stats prove he's an excellent physical specimen, and his effectiveness in duels reflects the fact he's a difficult defender to beat. A strong showing here might just help convince Frank de Boer that Botman's ready to step up later this year.

Jules Kounde, France – Central Defender

Les Bleus are blessed with an embarrassment of riches in most areas, but the fact Kounde is turning out for the Under-21s in this tournament instead of the senior side exemplifies their depth in quality at the heart of the defence.

In his second full season with Sevilla, Kounde has kicked on following a hugely encouraging second half to 2019-20, so much so that he's arguably the first name on the team sheet for Julen Lopetegui.

 

His forward-thinking nature has made him key to the coach's 'Lavolpiana build-up' defensive structure, a setup attributed to Argentinian coach Ricardo La Volpe that essentially demands centre-backs carry the ball forward from a three-man backline.

Only two central defenders in La Liga have bettered Kounde's rate of 19.2 carries per 90, while there are just three who have covered more distance carrying the ball further up field than the Frenchman this term (2,774 metres).

This positivity is generally offset by Fernando dropping in to form a faux back three, while Kounde's movement up the right can often create overloads as he teams up with Jesus Navas, Sevilla's biggest chance creator (44).

 

But evidence of his progressive mentality doesn't stop there. While possessional stats can often be skewed for centre-backs, given the sheer number of simple short balls played between defensive colleagues, Kounde is clearly looking ahead, and often.

No defender has been successful with more forward passes in open play than Kounde this season in LaLiga (507), with the 22-year-old completing an impressive 79 per cent of these. Therefore, perhaps it's not surprising to learn no Sevilla player has been involved in more shot-ending build-up sequences than he has (53), demonstrating his value to their forays forward, despite not attempting the shots or making the final pass in that move.

Kounde is a prime example of how centre-backs can be just as satisfying to see in possession as your classic playmakers – in fact, that is essentially what he is developing into, a defensive playmaker of the ilk who would have looked at home in the great Barcelona teams of the past 14 years.

Pedro Goncalves, Portugal – Attacking Midfielder

It's fair to say that, when Sporting CP set out to replace Bruno Fernandes, never in their wildest dreams would they have expected what they got. Pedro Goncalves had been a key figure for Famalicao in 2019-20, but to say he's surpassed expectations in Lisbon would be an understatement.

Goncalves operates in similar spaces to Fernandes, albeit drifting towards the right a little more, and his hot streak in front of goal has helped put Sporting on course for a first league title since 2001-02.

 

In 22 Primeira Liga matches, the attacking midfielder has scored 15 goals – none of which were penalties. The 22-year-old's xG total is just 6.9, meaning his over-performance of 8.1 is the biggest across Europe's top six leagues, aside from the phenomenal Robert Lewandowski (9.3).

Of course, the chances of him being able to sustain such a run in the long-term are low, but it still highlights what a danger the former Wolves youngster poses in his current form.

 

Comparisons with Fernandes have been rife, for obvious reasons, but they show many different traits to their game.

In Fernandes' final 50 league games for Sporting, he averaged 3.4 shots per 90 minutes and 2.3 of those non-penalty shots came from outside the box – Goncalves attempts 2.6 on average each game, with only 1.1 coming from beyond the penalty area.

As such, the average quality of Fernandes' shots in his final 50 games for Sporting weren't outstanding, with his xG per non-penalty shot equating to 0.07. Goncalves' is almost double that at 0.13, suggesting he picks his moments more selectively while also taking fewer attempts.

Nevertheless, despite Fernandes' penchant for a long-range effort, he only scored four times from outside the box in his final 50 league matches for Sporting – Goncalves already has three this term from 28 fewer games.

 

The biggest difference between the pair is assists. Fernandes' 20 in his final 50 outings for Sporting dwarfs Goncalves' three in 2020-21, but interestingly their expected assists per 90 minutes isn't hugely dissimilar. Fernandes is ahead 0.29 to 0.20 in this area, but a potential explanation for this potentially lies in the respective teams they've played in.

 

The next highest-scorer for Sporting this season after Goncalves himself is Nuno Santos with six – they don't have a prolific centre-forward, whereas Fernandes was supplying Bas Dost, who netted 76 times in 84 league games for the club between 2016 and 2019.

As we all know now, Fernandes was on the trajectory of an elite-level player. He's proven this at Manchester United, though there were certainly those who were sceptical about him prior to his move.

It'll be a tough ask, but why can't Goncalves continue to defy expectations?

Fedor Chalov, Russia - Forward

Russian striker Fedor Chalov is undoubtedly one of the most experienced players involved at the tournament, with the 22-year-old having already played 115 Russian Premier League matches in addition to his 11 UEFA Champions League appearances.

Chalov burst on to the scene in Russia with CSKA Moscow at 18 years old back in November 2016 and scored in just his fifth top-flight appearance for the club versus Ural a month later.

After scoring six goals in each of his opening two league seasons at CSKA, 2018-19 was when he really began to make a name for himself in Russia - winning the league's top scorer award with 15 goals, while also posting his best-ever season tally for assists (7).

But Chalov's career hasn't kicked on as expected since then, scoring just 13 goals in 50 top-flight appearances over the past two seasons, but his performances have been stirring enough to attract the attentions of multiple Premier League clubs during the January transfer window.

 

Despite this, Chalov's numbers domestically at top-tier level are mightily impressive for a player so early in his career. Despite only being 22, Chalov's tally of 60 goal involvements since his Russian Premier League debut are the third most by a player in the competition.

Russia are certainly one of the underdogs for the 2021 Under-21 European Championship and are unlikely to top their group, having been drawn alongside favourites France. However, if Chalov can find form in the first stage of the tournament then he could be the linchpin to Russian hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages in May.

Russia will be barred from competing as a nation at the Olympic Games, Winter Olympics and football World Cup over the next two years after the Court of Arbitration for Sport partly upheld a suspension imposed for breaching anti-doping rules.

In 2019, Russia was handed a four-year ban from major international sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

At the time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reiterated its support for Russia's ban, which meant athletes would be unable to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games.

In a landmark move on Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed Russia would be banned, albeit with the time frame cut from four years to two.

That will still discount Russia from participating in the Tokyo Olympics – pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic – plus the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, and the next World Cup.

Russia will, however, be able to compete at the Euro 2020 football finals, which is also scheduled to take place next year, having been another event impacted by COVID-19.

This is because WADA's international standard for code compliance by signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation".

Russian athletes wishing to compete at the Tokyo and Beijing Games will be able to do so, but only under a neutral banner.

CAS stated in its announcement: "This panel has imposed consequences to reflect the nature and seriousness of the non-compliance [to the WADC] and to ensure that the integrity of sport against the scourge of doping is maintained.

"The consequences which the panel has decided to impose are not as extensive as those sought by WADA. This should not, however, be read as any validation of the conduct of RUSADA or the Russian authorities."

CAS also said that its ruling aims to "effect cultural change and encourage the next generation of Russian athletes to participate in clean international sport".

In order to be reinstated at the end of the two-year ban, it was also ruled that RUSADA must pay a contribution of $1.27million to WADA, in respect of the costs incurred in investigating the authenticity of the data retrieved from the Moscow laboratory in January 2019.

RUSADA, under supervision from WADA or the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), was told it must conduct investigations into any cases impacted by the deletions or alterations of the Moscow laboratory data.

The Russian organisation must also provide any other support requested by WADA to assist in determining whether athletes whose samples are listed in the Moscow laboratory database have a case to answer.

Yuriy Ganus has been removed as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's (RUSADA) director general, prompting concerns over its independence from the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

RUSADA's supervisory board earlier this month recommended its founders - the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee - dismiss Ganus, advice that was taken on Friday.

Deputy director general Margarita Pakhnotskaya and the supervisory board's independent international expert member Sergey Khrychikov resigned this week.

RUSADA's non-compliance case is pending before the Court of Arbitration for Sport after it appealed the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) four-year suspension of Russia from global sporting events.

WADA and the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) each responded to news of Ganus' removal with unease.

WADA, which previously said it was "extremely concerned" by the supervisory board's recommendation, said: "These developments reinforce the concerns expressed by WADA in its statement of August 5 in relation to the manner in which the founders reached the decision regarding Mr Ganus following a recommendation by RUSADA's supervisory board.

"[The developments] re-emphasise the critical importance for RUSADA to maintain its operational independence going forward.

"WADA is in contact with RUSADA and other relevant Russian authorities to get further clarifications on the latest developments."

It added: "It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that national anti-doping organisations, such as RUSADA, remain safe from interference in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work independently and effectively.

"This is why the Compliance Review Committee made it a condition of RUSADA's reinstatement that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA's independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations."

iNADO said: "iNADO is deeply concerned by the control that the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee exercise over RUSADA.

"This was made evident today in the dismissal of Yuriy Ganus as director general by these two organisations."

It added: "It is a clear conflict of interest when sport organisations have the power to remove the head of a national anti-doping agency unopposed."

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has confirmed it will appeal a four-year suspension handed to the country by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Earlier this month, WADA banned Russian teams and athletes from competing under the country's flag at global sporting events – including the 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup – over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

RUSADA was given 21 days to appeal the suspension, and the organisation has now confirmed it will take its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Should the sanction stay in place, individual Russian athletes will still be able to enter global competitions under a neutral flag, as was the case for 168 Russians at the 2018 Winter Olympics when the country was banned.

The International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation", so Russia will also be free to compete at Euro 2020.

Stanislav Cherchesov's side have qualified for the finals, where St Petersburg is one of the host cities.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had previously suggested the country would appeal the ban, suggesting the sanctions were "political".

Vladimir Putin believes Russia has grounds to appeal the four-year ban handed to them by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a suspension he suggested had "political considerations."

WADA announced on Monday that Russia would be banned from competing at international sporting events for four years, with the country unable to field teams under their flag at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo or the 2022 World Cup.

Individual Russian athletes will still be able to enter global competitions under a neutral flag, as was the case for 168 Russians at the 2018 Winter Olympics when the country was banned.

WADA's International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation", so Russia will also be free to compete at Euro 2020, for which they are one of the host nations.

Russia have been given 21 days to respond to the sanctions proposed by WADA, which relate to tampering with data obtained from a laboratory in Moscow this year, and president Putin suggested his country will be lodging an appeal, while also stating his belief that the ban is a political punishment, rather than a sporting one.

"First of all, we need to analyse this decision. Here is the obvious part, which I can see immediately. For example, there are no complaints to the National Olympic Committee. If there are no complaints, the country must be able to take part in competitions under the national flag, according to the Olympic Charter," Putin told a joint news conference following a Normandy format summit, in quotes reported on the Kremlin's official website.

"This means that this part of the WADA decision contradicts the Olympic Charter. Therefore, we have good reason to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"There are also some other arguments, but first our experts and lawyers should analyse everything so that we can talk with our partners competently. However, I believe that the main thing, and everyone seems to accept it, is that punishment must be individual and based on the acts committed by an individual.

"Punishment must not be collective, that is, applied to the persons who have no connection with a given crime. Everyone is aware of this. I believe that the WADA experts are aware of this as well.

"But if they take decisions on collective punishment, I think this is a reason to believe that these decisions do not seek to keep sports clean but are based on political considerations, which has nothing to do with the interests of sport and the Olympic Movement."

The World Ant-Doping Agency has banned Russia from all major sports for the next four years. Russia had time to clean up their act, but according to WADA, they have not done so. That being the case, has WADA done enough?

FIFA has made contact with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to clarify how Russia's ban from major international sporting events applies to football.

On Monday, WADA's Executive Committee endorsed a recommended four-year ban for Russia, with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) declared non-compliant again over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

The suspension means athletes will not be able to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games.

It would also appear to prevent Russia from entering the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, although WADA's International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation", so Stanislav Cherchesov's side will be free to compete at Euro 2020.

However, the Russian Football Union said it was hopeful football would not be impacted but it was waiting to hear from FIFA.

FIFA is yet to reveal its stance on the suspension but has confirmed to Omnisport it is in contact with WADA and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

"FIFA has taken note of the decision taken by WADA Executive Committee today," a FIFA spokesperson said.

"FIFA is in contact with WADA and ASOIF to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football."

RUSADA has 21 days to appeal the suspension, which would see its case referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Compliance Review Committee that recommended the sanction, told a news conference: "It is the event that decides the world champion that is covered by the ban."

However, Taylor acknowledged each sport would be assessed on a "case-by-case basis".

"Let's be clear about the totality of this package. It's a four-year package and relates to a number of different things," he said. "In terms of participation, the standard is clear.

"There will be no flag at the events that are covered. There will not be a Russian flag and athletes will not be competing as representatives of Russia.

"The details from sport to sport will have to differ because some are team sports, some are individual sports. There is going to have to be a case-by-case basis.

"Nevertheless, what is important to note is that the standard says it is under the control and approval of WADA to ensure appropriate and standardised enforcement.

"That may, if there is a CAS case, be taken to CAS so it can see and endorse it itself.

"Can we be definitive now in every case as to what it will mean? No, but the standard is clear. They will not be there as representatives of Russia."

WADA president Craig Reedie said in a statement the body had delivered "a robust response".

"Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial," he said.

Other concerned parties, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), can also appeal to CAS if RUSADA chooses not to.

An appeal from the IOC, another Olympic committee or an international federation - such as FIFA - would have to come within 21 days of RUSADA accepting WADA's decision.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reiterated its support for Russia's four-year ban from major international sporting events imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

WADA declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant again at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

Athletes will not be able to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games, while Russia's place at the World Cup in Qatar is also in jeopardy.

The IOC had supported the recommended sanction last month and retained its stance following the announcement.

"The representatives of the Olympic Movement today [Monday] supported this unanimous decision in the WADA Executive Committee, which is in line with the statement made by the IOC Executive Board [on November 26] and endorsed by the Olympic Summit," a statement released to Omnisport read.

The IOC said in November it would "support the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for this manipulation".

It added: "With regard to the sanctions following this manipulation, we will still have to evaluate these in detail.

"The IOC emphasises that any sanctions should follow the rules of natural justice and respect human rights.

"Therefore, the IOC stresses that the guilty should be punished in the toughest way possible because of the seriousness of this infringement and thus welcomes the sanctions for the Russian authorities responsible."

WADA's statement on Monday said: "The WADA Executive Committee has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts."

The Russian Football Union (RFU) is hopeful Russia's four-year ban from international sporting events will not impact their potential participation in the 2022 World Cup.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant again at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday.

A WADA panel had recommended the ban over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

Athletes will not be able to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games, while Russia's place at the World Cup in Qatar is also in jeopardy.

FIFA is yet to reveal its stance on the suspension, but the RFU is optimistic Russia will be present in Qatar if they are successful in their qualification campaign, while it is keen for hosting opportunities in football also to be unaffected.

The International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation", so Russia will also be free to compete at Euro 2020, with St Petersburg acting as one of the host cities.

"The RFU has not yet received an official FIFA position by decision of WADA," a widely reported statement read.

"We closely monitor compliance with the anti-doping policy and hope that there will not be any restrictions on the part of FIFA for our teams, as well as the organisation of events or competitions in Russia."

RFU honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov – formerly a vice-president of FIFA – is "firmly convinced" there will be no issues for the national football team.

"Will we go to the World Cup under our flag? I still have to go there, but I can't say anything about the team," Koloskov told Championat. "There is no FIFA reaction yet.

"We must carefully discuss this topic, but I am firmly convinced that these prohibitions will not affect football. And at the European Championship, we will definitely compete under our flag."

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has welcomed WADA's decision and adds it hopes any appeal process is swift with the Olympic Games in Tokyo just seven-and-a-half months away.

"We welcome today's decision to declare RUSADA non-compliant, and the decisive action by WADA's Executive Committee (ExCo) to impose four-year sanctions on Russian athletes and support personnel," UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said. 

"This was the only possible outcome that the WADA ExCo could take to reassure athletes and the public and continue the task of seeking justice for those cheated by Russian athletes.

"We know however that this is not necessarily the end of the matter. If RUSADA chooses to appeal this decision to CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport], this must be carried out with minimal delay, especially in light of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 

"We welcome the clear and detailed communication from WADA today [Monday] which is vital in helping to maintain confidence in the global anti-doping system."

RUSADA has 21 days to appeal the suspension, which would see its case referred to CAS.

Other concerned parties, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), can also appeal if RUSADA chooses not to.

An appeal from the IOC, another Olympic committee or an international federation would have to come within 21 days of RUSADA accepting WADA's decision.

Russia has been banned from international sporting events for four years by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Athletes will not be able to compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games, while Russia's place at the 2022 World Cup is also in jeopardy.

A WADA panel last month recommended the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be declared non-compliant again over inconsistencies in anti-doping data discovered during an investigation.

WADA's independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) recommended strong sanctions be imposed on Russia, including a four-year ban from competing in and hosting major sporting events.

On Monday, the body's Executive Committee unanimously agreed with the recommendation at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

RUSADA has 21 days to appeal the suspension, which would see its case referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Individual Russian athletes will still be able to enter global competitions under a neutral flag, as was the case for 168 Russians at the 2018 Winter Olympics when the country was banned.

The International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories does not list UEFA as a "major event organisation", so Russia will also be free to compete at Euro 2020.

Stanislav Cherchesov's side have qualified for the finals, where St Petersburg is one of the host cities.

Other concerned parties, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), can also appeal if RUSADA chooses not to.

An appeal from the IOC, another Olympic committee or an international federation would have to come within 21 days of RUSADA accepting WADA's decision.

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Holders Portugal will face world champions France and fellow heavyweights Germany in a daunting Group F at Euro 2020.

Saturday's draw in Bucharest pitted Fernando Santos' men and their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo against the winners of the two World Cups either side of their Euro 2016 triumph.

It means Didier Deschamps' Bleus will have an opportunity for revenge after Portugal beat them on home soil at the Stade de France to lift the trophy.

The nation with the dubious pleasure of joining them is still to be determined. Iceland, Bulgaria or Hungary would claim the fourth spot if they progress through their play-off route in Path A.

However, if Romania are victorious in Path A, they will go into Group C with Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria.

In permutations that underline the convoluted and criticised format, one of Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo from play-off Path B would enter Group F if Romania qualify. Otherwise, the winner of Path B goes into Group C.

Italy open the tournament, which will take place across 12 host cities, when they entertain Turkey in Rome on June 12. Wales and Switzerland are also in Group A.

England and Croatia renew acquaintances at Wembley in Group D – Gareth Southgate's men having been sunk by a Mario Mandzukic winner in the semi-finals of Russia 2018 before progressing to the Nations League Finals at the expense of Zlatko Dalic's team.

There is the possibility of an all-British encounter if Scotland prevail from their play-off path alongside Israel, Norway and Serbia, while Czech Republic will meet England again in the finals having traded victories with the Three Lions during qualification.

Group B is the second group not waiting to see how play-off cards fall, with the world's number-one ranked team Belgium lining up alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia.

Spain are aiming to make it three European titles in four attempts after securing glory in 2008 and 2012.

They head up Group C, where the winner of the play-off route including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will round out the line-up alongside Sweden and Poland.

The Euro 2020 play-offs take place during next March's international break.

The last three European winners of major tournaments will play in the same pool at Euro 2020, after France, Portugal and Germany were all drawn together

Germany and France - victors at the respective 2014 and 2018 World Cups - will take on reigning European champions Portugal and a play-off winner in Group G.

Croatia, runners-up at last year's World Cup, will renew acquaintances with England, the side they beat in the semi-finals.

Here is the draw in full for next year's event, with four places in the finals still to be determined by the four path-winners in March's play-offs.

 

Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland

Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia.

Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, play-off winner from Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) or Romania if they win Path A.

Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic, play-off winner from Path C (Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia)

Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, play-off winner from Path B (Slovakia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland)

Group F: Germany, France, Portugal, play-off winner from Path A (Iceland, Bulgaria, Hungary) or winner of Path D (Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia or Kosovo) if Romania win Path A.

Belgium defender Dedryck Boyata bizarrely played in Michy Batshuayi's shirt for part of the Euro 2020 qualifier against Russia on Saturday.

Belgium won the match 4-1 to clinch top spot in Group I and substitute striker Batshuayi spent most of the contest on the bench, although onlookers spotted Boyata wearing his number 23 shirt at the start of the second half.

The mix-up was noticed by match officials around 10 minutes after the interval, and defender Boyata swapped to the correct shirt bearing his own name.

Chelsea forward Batshuayi, who came on for the closing 13 minutes, joked on Twitter: "He realised his dream"

Boyata also saw the funny side, and the Hertha Berlin defender posted a picture of himself in the wrong top on Instagram, along with three laughter emojis.

Eden Hazard scored twice and teed up his younger brother Thorgan for a goal as Belgium maintained their 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying with a 4-1 win in Russia.

Roberto Martinez's men made light work of a Russia side that went into the game on the back of seven consecutive victories in which they conceded just once.

Coach Stanislav Cherchesov stood and watched as his defence was run ragged by the Hazard brothers and by Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne, who controlled the game from midfield.

Romelu Lukaku scored the final goal of a victory that moves Belgium six points clear at the top of Group I with nine wins from nine games, Russia's consolation strike from Georgi Dzhikiya the only fly in the ointment for Martinez.

Lukaku's feet seemed to get stuck in the turf when Eden Hazard's pull-back found him unmarked in the box early on, but moments later Thorgan Hazard made amends after being played into the box by his older brother.

The Borussia Dortmund winger jinked inside Mario Fernandes before scoring with a clean strike that flew into the top corner of Guilherme's net.

Lukaku's well-judged knock-down presented the unmarked Eden Hazard with a chance to double Belgium's lead from the edge of the box and the Real Madrid man made no mistake, beating Guilherme for power with his clinical low drive.

Russia were pulled apart for the third, which arrived in the 40th minute when Mertens' weighted pass released De Bruyne, who strode through a huge gap in the hosts' defence and drew Guilherme before squaring to Eden Hazard for a simple finish.

Thorgan Hazard played Mertens in for what looked like a certain goal early in the second half but the Napoli man fired tamely at Guilherme before leaving the field clutching his hamstring.

The loss of Mertens did not stop Belgium from chasing a fourth, which came courtesy of Lukaku's surge across the edge of the box and a thunderous low finish from the Inter striker.

Thibaut Courtois could only parry Dmitry Kuzyaev's shot into the path of Dzhikiya 11 minutes from time, but his side-footed shot into the unguarded net did little to take the sheen off a fine Belgium win.


What does it mean? Deja vu for Cherchesov's men

Russia are the only side to score against Belgium in qualifying, with Denis Cheryshev's goal in a 3-1 defeat in March and Dzhikiya's consolation strike here the sum total conceded by a steely Belgium defence, and this game was not far from a repeat of the March encounter.

Russia caught in the Hazards

The constant endeavour of Thorgan and Eden Hazard down the Belgian left caused Russia problems throughout the first half and their lethal finishing all but settled the match.

Wasteful Dzyuba highlights Cheryshev absence

Russia could have been ahead after five minutes but Artem Dzyuba headed wide from six yards and committed a foul in the process, squandering his side's chance to take an early lead.

What's next?

Belgium entertain Cyprus in Brussels on Tuesday, while Russia travel to San Marino to face Group I's stragglers.

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