June 22 – Covid-19 has struck at the heart of the England and Scotland squads ahead of tonight’s Euro 2020 Group D finale, ruling out three players including Scotland’s key midfielder Billy Gilmour who will miss his country’s must-win game against Croatia just when they need him most.
Gilmour, man of the match against England last week, tested positive and his absence will be a massive blow to Scotland’s chances of reaching the last 16.
“He’s upset as you would expect,” said Scotland coach Steve Clarke. “He’s asymptomatic. Hopefully he’ll get back to playing as quickly as possible. It’s a blow for us. But it’s a chance for someone else to come into the team.”
Players are regularly tested and are staying within team bubbles except when they are at matches.
The Scottish Football Association said it had been liaising with health authorities but refused to answer questions about how the bubble was breached or how Gilmour may have come into contact with the virus.
“That’s not my department. That’s for the medical department,” Clarke said. “I’m just focusing on preparing the team for tomorrow’s match.”
It was the second time in less than a month that the coronavirus has hit the Scotland team. Midfielder John Fleck tested positive on June 1, and six other players were told to self-isolate and were unavailable for a friendly against the Netherlands.
Gilmour’s positive test also hit England hard after he came into contact with Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell who are having to self-isolate
The pair will both miss tonight’s game with the Czech Republic though the blow will not be quite as severe for Gareth Southgate’s team as for the Scots since England have already qualified for the knockout stage.
Mount and Chilwell are teammates of Gilmour’s at Premier League club Chelsea and were pictured embracing him at the end of Friday’s 0-0 draw at Wembley.
“The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team,” the English Football Association said in a statement.
Mount has been a standout player in attack for England and is one of the most important members of the squad.
The main worry for England is that he (and Chilwell, though the defender has not yet been called upon) could miss the last 16 encounter. Certainly both their periods of isolation will disrupt preparations for the knock-out stage.
If England finish second in their group, then their last 16 game takes place on June 28 – the final day of the enforced self-isolation period. But if they win the group they play a day later, just enough time for Mount to be re-instated.
The Football Association said the pair will continue to “train individually in private areas” at England’s St George’s Park training base.
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