All set for Euro draw

CON­CERN: HOST RO­MA­NIA LOOK FAR FROM READY ON AND OFF THE PITCH

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Bucharest

Bucharest holds the draw for the Euro 2020 group stage to­day but with just seven months to go un­til kick­off in Ro­ma­nia, one of the tour­na­ment’s 12 host coun­tries looks far from ready both on and off the pitch.

Mirel Radoi took over as coach af­ter Ro­ma­nia failed to make next sum­mer’s fi­nals via the main qual­i­fi­ca­tion route and his new side will have to nav­i­gate play­offs in March if they want to take their place.

Mean­while the promised mod­erni­sa­tion of the train­ing fa­cil­i­ties for the four coun­tries who will play in Bucharest dur­ing the tour­na­ment, where three Group C matches and one last 16 game will take place, has been hit by a se­ries of de­lays.

The holdups have caused con­ster­na­tion among the pub­lic and the new cen­tre-right gov­ern­ment.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed that nei­ther the sta­di­ums nor the trans­port in­fra­struc­ture for tourists will be fin­ished, and what about the state of Ro­ma­nian foot­ball?” said Alexan­dru, 38, af­ter his coun­try’s 5-0 de­feat to Spain in qual­i­fy­ing ear­lier this month.

Ro­ma­nia fin­ished fourth in Group F, seven points away from the two spots that would have au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fied them for the Eu­ros, and have to get past Ice­land in their play­off semi­fi­nal in Reyk­javik on March 26 be­fore a po­ten­tial fi­nal in ei­ther Bul­garia or Hun­gary five days later.

Suc­cess in the play­offs would give Ro­ma­nia the chance to play three Group C matches in their home coun­try, with the Nether­lands and Ukraine al­ready as­sured of their places in that group.

Off the field, Ro­ma­nia’s new prime min­is­ter Lu­dovic Or­ban has be­moaned the fre­quent de­lays in pre-tour­na­ment prepa­ra­tions.

The leader of the pro-Euro­pean Na­tional Lib­eral Party (PNL), which leads Ro­ma­nia af­ter the pre­vi­ous left-wing gov­ern­ment col­lapsed in a no-con­fi­dence vote in Oc­to­ber, was gob­s­macked at the state of the four sites af­ter a visit ear­lier this month.

“Work only started four years af­ter the bid,” he lamented, im­plic­itly lay­ing the blame at the door of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment.

Or­ban be­lieves that only two of the four train­ing bases will be com­pleted in time for the first group game to be hosted at the city’s 55 000-ca­pac­ity Na­tional Arena, sched­uled for June 14.

The foun­da­tions have only just been laid on the third fa­cil­ity, while a le­gal wran­gle means that work on the fourth is yet to be­gin.

“I was happy when I heard that we would be host­ing matches, think­ing that we would fi­nally have some new in­fra­struc­ture in Bucharest. But we’ve han­dled ‘the Ro­ma­nian way’,” says Adrian, 32, jok­ing about his coun­try’s in­abil­ity to ful­fil its com­mit­ments.

Be­gun in Oc­to­ber, the con­struc­tion of a rail­way line that was sup­posed to con­nect Bucharest’s Henri Coanda air­port to the city’s Gara de Nord train sta­tion is be­ing ham­strung by protests from lo­cal res­i­dents.

How­ever Florin Sari, the head of Ro­ma­nia’s or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee for the tour­na­ment, in­sisted that wor­ries over late­ness were un­founded, say­ing that “we have come a long way and we’re on the home stretch”.

“The promised in­fra­struc­ture was not re­quired by Uefa, it was sim­ply to sup­port our bid (to host matches),” he said, adding that the teams would be able to use three other train­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the Bucharest sub­urbs if nec­es­sary.

The multi-host for­mat of this edi­tion of the Eu­ros has given Ro­ma­nia’s tourist in­dus­try cause to cel­e­brate, ex­pect­ing up to 120 000 for­eign tourists. – AFP

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