The news that Sergio Busquets has contracted covid-19 has left everyone at the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on tenterhooks. As of Sunday, no other Spain players had caught the virus, but given a positive case takes a little while to make itself known, there'll be no room to relax until later in the week. For the moment, Spain Under-21s, who on Thursday were knocked out of their Euros by Portugal, will have to play Tuesday’s friendly against Lithuania. Luis de la Fuente's men were unlucky to lose their semi-final tie against the Portuguese, by the way; they were the better side. Drafting in the Under-21s at the 11th hour avoids having to call off the Lithuania match, but it will no longer serve its original purpose of allowing the seniors to fine-tune ahead of Euro 2020.
Larger Euro 2020 squads meant for just such an eventuality
It was with precisely this kind of situation in mind that UEFA allowed countries to name 26-man squads for the Euros, rather than the customary 23. Outbreaks were feared. Yet Luis Enrique opted to include only 24 players. As coaches will only be able to name 12 substitutes per game, he didn’t want to have to leave as many as three men in the stands. There’s still time, until 9 pm CEST on Saturday, for squads to be rejigged for medical reasons. We’ll have to wait and see how much the virus has spread within the group. Inside their bubble, the Spain players and backroom team go about their business with their faces uncovered, in an atmosphere of relative normality. We're going to have to keep our fingers firmly crossed.
RFEF says health ministry snubbed vaccination requests
This won’t happen at the Olympics, because all 500-odd members of Spain's expedition will go to Japan fully vaccinated. The Spanish contingent for Euro 2020 includes 51 people, who could easily have been given pre-tournament jabs. To top things off, we’re one of the nations hosting the event; at a time of the year when tourists are looking to book holidays in Spain, this is a highly inopportune embarrassment for us. The word from the RFEF on Sunday was that it twice asked the country’s health ministry for the squad to be vaccinated, but got no reply. However, it didn't mention that in the statement it released on Busquets. Whether or not such a request was ignored is not an insignificant question. In the meantime, we send Busquets our best wishes and cross our fingers for the rest.