Bratislava, Slovakia – As suspected, Slovakia’s Euro 2020 play-off against the Republic of Ireland will be played behind closed doors in Bratislava on March 26 following the Slovak government’s 14-day ban on all sporting events in the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Seven confirmed cases in Slovakia
“The Republic of Ireland’s Uefa Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia on 26 March will be played behind closed doors on the instruction of the Slovak Government,” said the Football Association of Ireland in a statement.
Fans who have bought tickets will be refunded. More than 2,000 Irish fans have bought tickets for the game and it was anticipated that many more would travel to Slovakia. Bratislava’s newly-renovated Tehelné pole stadium will have to wait a bit longer to host a game at total capacity.
As of today, Slovakia has seven confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
With four confirmed cases in the country, Bulgarian authorities also informed the Hungarian Football Federation that their play-off, scheduled to be held on the same day in Sofia, will also be held behind closed doors, due to the coronavirus outbreak. Wizzair immediatly announced it had also cancelled its special flights organized for the 2,500 Hungarian fans who had bought tickets to the game.
Hungary has 12 confirmed cases of virus.
Slovakia and Hungary bid to join Poland and the Czech Republic
Having failed to qualify automatically for this summer’s tournament, Slovakia and Hungary still have to go through play-offs to book their ticket and join Poland and the Czech Republic at Euro 2020. The winners of the one-legged ties will then play a second play-off give days later for a place at in next summer’s finals.
According to some top online sportsbooks Slovakia are 8/7 home favorites over Ireland (2/1), even without the home-field advantage and the support of their fans. Despite winning just one of its last six matches and that lone win coming against 114th-ranked Azerbaijan, Hungary are still 6/5 away favorites over Bulgaria (11/6). Bulgaria has had its own struggles (1-2-7 in its last 10) but did beat a solid Czech team at home in November.
The Euro 2020 is scheduled to be held in 12 cities in 12 European countries from 12 June to 12 July 2020; namely London, Rome, Munich, Baku, Dublin, Saint Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Bilbao… and Budapest!
The Hungarian capital’s new 68,000-seat Puskás Aréna, which was inaugurated earlier this year, will host three group games and one round of 16 game.