Football

Coronavirus-hit Italy play the waiting game

Health authorities' restrictions on clubs mean that Mancini needs to see which players are available

Of the 41 players called up to Italy's squad, only 18 turned up for training yesterday, with several more expected to join the squad in the next few days

As the coronavirus wreaks havoc in Europe, Italy find themselves in a position where the local health authorities, and not the football coach, have a greater say in team selection for their upcoming internationals.

Of the 41 players summoned by Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini for the friendly against Estonia on Thursday morning (Singapore time) and the Nations League fixtures against Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, only 18 were able to join the squad in Florence yesterday.

Several Italian clubs, such as Lazio, AS Roma and Fiorentina, are in self-isolation and the health authorities in their respective regions have not yet authorised players to leave and join the national team.

Four internationals from Sassuolo, also in isolation within the club after testing positive for Covid-19, should be able to join the squad tomorrow morning (Singapore time), said the Italian Football Federation. Several players from other clubs are also expected to arrive today.

Mancini himself is in quarantine after contracting Covid-19 and will lead the Azzurri remotely at least until the weekend. Yesterday, he made three more call-ups as uncertainty continues over his players' availability.

Uncapped Hellas Verona midfielder Mattia Zaccagni has been summoned for the first time and is joined by defenders Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan) and Gian Marco Ferrari (Sassuolo).

They join as cover for West Ham centre-back Angelo Ogbonna, who has a groin injury, and AC Milan defender Alessio Romagnoli as well as any more absences due to the virus.

Italy, undefeated in 19 matches, are second in their Nations League group, one point behind Poland, after draws in Poland and against Holland last month.

TRAVEL RESTRICTION

The situation in Italy could also affect other national teams.

Fiorentina were reported as having 13 players called up for international matches, including Erick Pulgar (Chile), Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) and Serbian pair Nikola Milenkovic and Dusan Vlahovic.

The Ansa news agency said players from Fiorentina would not be allowed to travel after the club announced last Friday that forward Jose Callejon had tested positive for Covid-19.

There could be consequences. Italian Football Federation boss Gabriele Gravina said: "I'm worried about the lack of coordination from some local health authorities, because the lack of available players at an international level entails sanctions." - AFP, REUTERS

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