Slovakia’s manager insists that it’s game on for the Euro 2020 play-off and says his side “won’t cry” if they have to play Ireland in Bratislava in 13 days’ time without their Italian-based players due to the strict Covid-19 conditions imposed by their government.
EFA still have the play-off game, to be played in Bratislava behind closed doors, on their calendar but the chances of the tie in Slovakia proceeding appear extremely remote.
Foreigners have been banned from travelling into Slovakia, and Ryanair yesterday cancelled the Dublin-Bratislava flights which had been due to carry hundreds of Ireland supporters that week.
FAI officials expect UEFA to announce on Tuesday that all four play-off ties are postponed, with the tournament overall possibly delayed for a year.
Aside from losing the advantage of home support in a closed stadium, Slovakia coach Pavel Hapal is unsure if the seven squad members who play club football in Italy would even be available but he is working off the basis that the game proceeds.
“The situation changes every day. Schools are closed, all events in Slovakia and other countries are cancelled. It changes almost from hour to hour, so in a few days everything can be different,” said the Slovakia boss.
“At the moment we are all going to the game and I try not to think about what could change. There’s no point in crying if players are missing, it’s a chance for others to come in.”
With club football in Britain shelved, McCarthy’s players would not get any game-time before the play-off date, but Slovakia’s problem is more serious as their Serie A players may not be allowed to enter Slovakia as the government has effectively sealed the border.
“The situation is really serious. In recent days, I have been making phone calls with Milan Skriniar and Juraj Kucka. The most important thing is to have these players, as well as the others from Italy, available,” Hapal said.
“I am optimistic and I believe that we will get them to Slovakia. Of course, it all can change and it would be a big problem if Italy did not let the players out, or if they had to go into the 14-day quarantine after arriving in Slovakia.”
If Euro 2020 can still be played this summer and Ireland do make it that far, Mick McCarthy will have to plan without Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark, who underwent surgery on an ankle problem this week and is not expected to play again this season for his club.
There was one bit of good news this week as Stoke City revealed that James McClean had been able to resume light training following injury, though they have been unable to set a date for his return.