Paris (AFP) – Spain and reigning champions Portugal are at risk of a shock early exit from Euro 2020 on Wednesday, while UEFA again defended its decision to stop Munich from illuminating the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours ahead of Germany’s crucial match with Hungary.
The Germans need a draw in the Bavarian capital to reach the last 16 on the last day of group matches but defeat would send Hungary through and possibly condemn Joachim Loew’s side to another group-stage exit, just like at the 2018 World Cup.
That is unthinkable for Germany, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-2 at the weekend to kickstart their campaign but could be without Thomas Mueller due to a knee injury.
The build-up to the Group F match has been overshadowed by the fallout from UEFA’s decision to block plans by Munich authorities to light the stadium in rainbow colours.
The German city wanted to protest at a law passed by Hungary’s right-wing government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.
UEFA on Wednesday added the rainbow colours to its logo while defending its decision, insisting that the Munich’s request was politically-motivated.
European football’s governing body said in a statement that Munich’s request was “linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.”
Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter on Tuesday called the decision “shameful” and announced plans to decorate other city landmarks in rainbow colours instead.
Rainbow flags will fly at the town hall and a huge wind turbine close to the stadium and the city’s 291-metre (955-foot) Olympic Tower will be lit up as well.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen weighed in on the row, saying the Hungarian bill “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation”.
“It goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union,” she said.
– Portugal in danger –
Other stadiums across Germany are also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.
In response, stadia across Hungary will be illuminated in the national colours of red, white and green during the match, led by calls from Gabor Kubatov, who is president of the country’s biggest club Ferencvaros and also a vice-president of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
The initiative has also been backed by other Hungarian clubs, including those whose management are linked to Fidesz and nationalist Orban, who is a football fanatic and a keen follower of the Hungary team.
On the field in the same Group F, World Cup holders France take on Portugal in Budapest, where the reigning European champions are in danger.
Portugal will be eliminated if they lose and Hungary win but a draw will definitely take the 2016 champions through to the last 16.
The Portuguese face a France side who have already qualified but will want to win to secure top spot, meaning a theoretically easier tie in the next round.
“We’re guaranteed to qualify and that gives us a bit of peace of mind. From experience I’m not getting caught up in the maths, you have to respect the game,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Ronaldo needs just two more goals to match the all-time international scoring record of Ali Daei, who scored 109 times for Iran.
– ‘Like a bottle of cava’ –
Portugal’s neighbours Spain are in a similarly tricky position heading into their final Group E game against Slovakia in Seville.
The 2008 and 2012 European champions have drawn both matches so far against Sweden and Poland.
They need to win this time to be sure of reaching the knockout phase, although a draw would be enough to qualify as a best third-placed team, provided Poland fail to beat Sweden in Saint Petersburg.
“I have a feeling that we are like a bottle of cava that is about to be uncorked,” said coach Luis Enrique.
“As soon as we put in one complete performance and get a big victory, the confidence will come and you will start to see the best of us.”
Slovakia need a point to be certain of progressing, while Robert Lewandowski’s Poland have to beat already-qualified Sweden to advance.
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