Sports

Mar 232016
 
Fletcher, 28, won the last of his 25 caps in Scotland’s final Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar

BBC Coverage

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Striker Steven Fletcher has pulled out of the Scotland squad for Thursday’s friendly against the Czech Republic because of illness.

The Sunderland forward, on loan with Marseille, has been with the squad at their Renfrewshire base this week.

But he did not join his team-mates on the flight to Prague on Wednesday.

Norwich forward Steven Naismith had earlier pulled out with a hamstring injury, leaving only Tony Watt and Ross McCormack as striking options.

McCormack, 29, has scored 21 goals in 41 outings for English Championship club Fulham this season.

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Scotland media conference in Prague: Gordon Strachan and Darren Fletcher

The uncapped Watt, the former Celtic striker currently on loan at Blackburn from Charlton, has notched seven in 35 appearances.

After the earlier withdrawals of Naismith and Steven Whittaker, Darren Fletcher and Alan Hutton are the only survivors from the last time Scotland played in Prague, a 1-0 Euro 2012 qualifying defeat notable for the 4-6-0 formation employed by then boss Craig Levein.

“We are going there with a different team and different players,” said defender Christophe Berra, who was on the bench that night.

Berra has won 31 caps since his Scotland debut in 2008

“We are missing a few as well but we have got some good quality young players coming through. It is a chance to try something different and give people experience. It is not the be-all and end-all.

“This game is not really going to have a major effect on the [2018] World Cup qualifiers [which start in September].

“But hopefully we can get a good positive result and performance. We know it is going to be a very hard test for us.”

Scotland will face a Czech team that finished top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group – above Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands – with seven wins and a draw from their 10 games.

“There are no world beaters in their team so they must be very well organised with some quality players,” added Ipswich defender Berra.

“I am sure the manager has looked at them and taken things off them that we can maybe add to our game.

“We have been working hard on the training ground on things we want to progress and take into the next campaign.”

Scotland play a second friendly against Denmark at Hampden Park next Tuesday, 29 March.

Scotland squad to face Czech Republic:

Goalkeepers: Scott Bain, Allan McGregor

Defenders: Christophe Berra, Gordon Greer, Alan Hutton, Russell Martin, Charlie Mulgrew, Andrew Robertson, Paul Caddis

Midfielders: Ikechi Anya, Barry Bannan, Darren Fletcher, Kevin McDonald, Kenny McLean, Matt Phillips, Robert Snodgrass

Forwards: Ross McCormack, Tony Watt

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Mar 232016
 
Security has been stepped up in Brussels following Tuesday’s attacks

Wales manager Chris Coleman says Euro 2016 should go ahead as planned despite increased security fears following the suicide and bomb attacks in Belgium.

“It’s what everybody wants,” Coleman said. “It’s what the people want and we should make sure that happens.”

He described Tuesday’s incidents as “incredibly evil” but said the attackers should not be allowed to win.

More than 30 people were killed by the explosions at Brussels airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital.

“I think these people would have us stay in our houses, locked up 24 hours a day if we let them have their way,” Coleman told BBC Radio 5 live. “That shouldn’t happen.”

He said he expected Euro 2016, which starts in France on 10 June, to be “incredibly secure” and said he was confident Uefa, European football’s governing body, would do its “utmost” to keep everyone safe.

But the former Fulham and Coventry City boss added: “If somebody’s hell bent on walking into a crowded area and they want to blow themselves up or whatever, there’s only so much security can do.

“There’s always going to be a doubt in everybody’s mind. You’re hoping and praying that everything’s going to be OK.

“We’ve all got to go there and try to enjoy the tournament, try to entertain everybody that’s going there as best we can.”

More about the attacks

Uefa said it would continue to “monitor the level of risk for the tournament”, which will feature 24 teams, playing 51 matches at 10 venues across France.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attacks were a reminder of the “very high level of security” needed at Euro 2016.

France was the target of attacks last year, when 130 people were killed in Paris on 13 November.

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Debris litters the floor of Brussels airport after two explosions hit the building

Suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafes, restaurants and a music venue.

The attack on the Stade de France took place during France’s football friendly with Germany, with radio and television teams inside the venue capturing the noise of the bombs going off outside.

Following the game, the German players slept in the stadium to ensure they remained safe before travelling home.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Norwich City striker Dieumerci Mbokani was at Brussels airport when the explosions occurred. According to his club, he was “unharmed but shaken”.

It is thought the player was there in order to fly to Kinshasa to join up with his DR Congo team-mates for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying double-header against Angola on Saturday and next Tuesday.

Belgium defender Vincent Kompany, who plays his club football in England for Manchester City, said he was “horrified and revolted” by the attacks, tweeting that “innocent people were paying the price again”.

International team-mate Christian Benteke, who plays for Liverpool, said his thoughts were with family and friends of the victims.

People in Brussels and surrounding areas have been told to avoid rail stations, airports, shopping centres, concerts and other public events following Tuesday’s events.

But organisers of the Dwars Door Vlaanderen say the one-day cycling race across Flanders will proceed as scheduled on Wednesday.

A statement on the race’s website read: “Dwars door Vlaanderen will take place. The organisers mourn with the victims of these terrible acts.”

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