The 2019-2020 Champions League, suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be completed in a ‘Final Eight’ in Lisbon in August, UEFA said on Wednesday.
Europe’s top club competition will be decided by a series of one-off matches beginning in the Portuguese capital on August 12, with the final on August 23, European football’s governing body confirmed.
Similarly, the Europa League will be completed with a ‘Final Eight’ across four German cities including Cologne, with the final there on August 21. The closing stages of the women’s Champions League will go ahead in Bilbao and San Sebastian at the end of that month.
The men’s Champions League final was initially due to be played in Istanbul at the end of May before the Covid-19 crisis took hold. The Turkish city will now host the 2021 final instead.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals are usually held over two legs, home and away, but will now be played as single ties, with games in the last eight on August 12 to 15 and the semi-finals on August 18 and 19.
UEFA said all matches would be split between Benfica’s Estadio da Luz home, and the nearby Estadio Jose Alvalade, home of Sporting.
The 65,000-capacity Estadio da Luz hosted the final of Euro 2004 and the Champions League in 2014, while Sporting’s 50,000-seater stadium was also used at Euro 2004 and for the UEFA Cup final in 2005.
Portugal’s credentials to host a Champions League mini-tournament were boosted by the fact that it has not been as badly hit by the pandemic as other western European countries, and it has no clubs left in the competition.
The Portuguese top flight resumed at the start of this month, with matches being played behind closed doors.
With the European death toll from the coronavirus easing and numerous EU countries this week opening their borders once again to visitors, there is some hope that matches can be played in front of crowds.
However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said no decision would be made on whether to let spectators in “until mid-July”.
“If I would answer today then we don’t think we could have spectators but things are changing rapidly,” Ceferin said in a videoconference.
“We don’t know if (it would be) only the local fans, if no fans, or even if fans from different clubs could travel.
“As it looks now, we would decide that we would play without fans but we have to wait because the siutation is changing every day.”
Before getting to the quarter-final stages, there are still four Champions League last 16, second legs to be completed, and it is possible those games could also be moved to Portugal.
“A decision is pending on whether the four remaining round of 16 second legs will take place at the home team’s stadium or in Portugal,” a UEFA statement said.
If needed, the games will be played in the northern Portuguese cities of Porto and Guimaraes.
Osimhen Set To Become Africa’s Costliest Footballer
Super Eagles striker, Victor Osimhen, is set to become Africa’s costliest footballer, with a reported €81m (£73.6m) move from French Ligue 1 side Lille to Serie A giants Napoli.
The deal is expected to be finalised on Thursday, with both clubs reportedly reaching agreement for the young forward.
If the deal falls through, Osimhen will eclipse Nicolas Pepe’s record, when he moved from Lille to Arsenal for £72m last summer.
According to L’Equipe, the Eagles star could complete his move to the side on Thursday.
Reports say the change of agents by the Nigerian delayed his transfer to the Italian side, but is now set to go through.
Osimhen’s agent, Stanley Okolo, had last week said the striker was considering Napoli’s offer and would make his decision soon.
“I read in some media that Victor has already rejected Napoli, but that is absolutely not true. I don’t understand where some information come from. The lad just asked for a little more time, the negotiations continue every day. He is just trying to make the decision that is right for him,” Okolo told Radio Punto Nuovo.
Cedric Bakambu’s £65m move to Chinese side Beijing Guoan from Villarreal in January 2018 makes him the second costliest footballer in Africa ahead of Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez, who joined Manchester City from Leicester City for £60m in July 2018.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined Arsenal for £56m from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018 to rank fourth costliest in Africa, while Naby Keita, who moved from Leipzig to Liverpool (July 2018) for £52.75m, is Africa’s fifth costliest footballer.
FIFA Confirms 2022 World Cup Match Schedule
The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) has confirmed the match schedule for the 2022 FiFA World Cup in Qatar.
A statement on the world football governing body’s website said that the host, Qatar would kick off the 2022 tournament at Al Bayt Stadium.
”Al Bayt Stadium, a 60,000-capacity arena that takes its name and shape from the traditional tents used by nomadic peoples in the Gulf region, will be the stage for hosts Qatar to kick off the tournament on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022 at 13:00 local time (11:00 CET).
”The local kick-off times for group matches have been set for 13:00, 16:00, 19:00 and 22:00, with the simultaneous kick-offs for the last round of group games and knockout-stage timings being 18:00 and 22:00.
”Khalifa International Stadium will be the setting for the play-off for third place on Dec. 17.
”The final will kick off one day later at 18:00 at Lusail Stadium in front of an 80,000 crowd.
”With the aim of providing all teams with optimal rest between their matches, the group stage will last 12 days and, with four matches per day, it promises a full and exciting schedule for fans,” the statement read.
It added that tournament’s compact nature, with no air travel needed to move between the venues, would allow organisers, for the first time, to optimise specific match demands for the benefit and comfort of fans, teams and media.
”This will be achieved through the assignment of the group fixtures for each matchday to a stadium and kick-off time only after the final draw, currently planned for after the March 2022 international match calendar qualifying window.
”Once the pairings are known, the possibility will be discussed of providing a more beneficial kick-off time for audiences at home, or indeed for fans in Qatar with regard to the stadium allocation.
”That additional flexibility is possible without affecting any technical aspects since all stadiums are located within a compact radius and the climate is perfect at that time of year in Qatar, whether it is an early or a late kick-off.
”On top of that, this will potentially give fans the opportunity to attend more than one match a day during the group stage,” the statement read. (NAN)
CAF Postpones 2021 Africa Cup Of Nations
The Confederation of African Football Executive Committee on Tuesday announced the postponement of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
It said the competition will now hold in Cameroon in January 2022.
The decision was reached after the committee met via video-conference to discuss the future of competitions and other related issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After consultation with stakeholders and taking into consideration the current global situation, the tournament has been rescheduled for January 2022.
“The date for the final tournament and the remaining matches of the qualifiers will be communicated in due course,” the football body said in a statement.
CAF also rescheduled the finals of the African Nations Championship 2020, shifting it to January 2021 also in Cameroon.
“The CAF Executive Committee is satisfied with t the Cameroonian authorities for their commitment towards the hosting of the two competitions. Cameroon is ready to host either competition and are within schedule,” CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad said.
The statement reads “The Total CAF Champions League and Total CAF Confederation Cup, will resume in September with a Final Four (4) format. Semi-Final matches will be played in a single match.
“Due to challenging conditions, the 2020 edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations has been cancelled.
“The 42nd CAF Ordinary General Assembly has been rescheduled for December 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“CAF has allocated an additional USD 16.2 Million to assist Member Associations to mitigate challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Member Associations will be entitled to USD 300,000.”