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Will the Euros be plagued by fatigue?

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Covid-19 has changed the way we live forever. Not even football has been insulated from the pandemic’s impact. The spread of coronavirus caused the 2019/2020 club season to be postponed in March.

Although the European campaign was eventually finished the following summer, this delay had a knock-on effect of condensing the 2020/2021 season dramatically. Furthermore, the pandemic also led to Euro 2020 being pushed back a year.

The tournament has finally kicked off with many questioning the role that fatigue and coronavirus could play. Players have had to compete in more games than ever over the past 12 months, but will this actually make an impact? We delved into the numbers to find out.

The impact of coronavirus

By delaying the competition by 12 months, UEFA hoped that coronavirus would not affect Euro 2020. Unfortunately Covid-19 has not gone away.

It has already affected the preparation of several teams. Prior to their opening game, Spain were rocked by captain Sergio Busquets testing positive for the virus. Leeds United defender Diego Llorente was then struck down just after.

Sweden have been affected as well. Star player Dejan Kulusevski remains in self-isolation, seriously hampering their chances of progression. Portugal defender Joao Cancelo also tested positive recently.

This reflects the trend of last season with Covid-19 accounting for 18.7% of all injuries of players selected for Euro 2020. Prior to the competition Turkey were the team most affected with 19 squad members missing 44 matches between them.

Marcus Rashford – The most fatigue player

Thanks to illuminating research conducted by Betsson, we are in a position to reveal which players are set to be most fatigued at Euro 2020.

In what is damaging news for England, Marcus Rashford is unlikely to be playing to his full potential. No outfield player at the tournament played more than his 56 games last campaign.

His heavy workload was a result of Manchester United doing well in several competitions. Domestically they reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and Carabao Cup semis with Rashford featuring prominently.

In Europe they also played a lot of matches. After finishing third in their Champions League group the Red Devils were placed in the Europa League. They did well in Europe’s secondary competition, reaching the final before losing to Villarreal. Even that game went long with the Spanish side winning on penalties after extra time.

Unsurprisingly, Rashford’s heavy workload has led to several injuries. Luckily for England, although he may not be fighting fit they do possess alternatives. Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish are all capable of playing Rashford’s favoured left forward role.

Injuries in summary

Last season’s condensed schedule has not just led to fatigue. It has also resulted in an increase in injuries.

Marco Verratti – who missed Italy’s opener against Turkey – has suffered no less than 10 separate injuries this season, missing 25 games for Paris Saint-Germain. He is just one Italian who endured an injury plagued term as well. In fact no team in the tournament suffered more injuries than Italy last season.

Ante Rebic, Eden Hazard and Leon Goretza suffered the next most injuries, missing 20, 33 and 14 games for their clubs respectively.

Meanwhile, Finland and Hungary are the teams afflicted by the least injuries. Neither team is fancied to do much in the competition and will be hoping to use this to their advantage to help spring a surprise or two.

Teams that could be affected by fatigue

Betsson’s report also extended fatigue out to teams as a whole. The results were interesting.

Favourites France are most likely to be tired with their 26-man squad playing 1079 matches between them last season. This is 20% higher than the average number of games played by their rivals (857).

To limit the effects of this fatigue, Didier Deschamps will likely be taking full advantage of the five substitutes afforded to each manager. His squad is the strongest at Euro 2020 on paper, which should make this easy.

England and Italy are the two other teams where players have clocked the most minutes.

Other problems France could face

Fatigue is not the only issue that Deschamps may need to overcome this summer. France may be the favourites by clinching the European crown will not be easy.

Squad disharmony

France used to be known as the most explosive dressing room in European football. Although there has not been a tournament meltdown in some time, there could be some disharmony at the tournament.

Firstly, controversial character Karim Benzema has returned to the squad. He is currently under investigation for his alleged involvement in blackmailing former teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema has also slung mud at fellow squad member Olivier Giroud and Deschamps himself in the past.

The increased squad size of 26 will also make it harder to maintain harmony. More players means more idle hands and keeping everyone motivated will be tough.

A tough group

France have been drawn in the Group of Death alongside Germany, Portugal and Hungary. Die Mannschaft have their problems but they can never be counted out at a tournament. Portugal, meanwhile, have a much better squad than when they won the tournament in 2016.

Lose these two games and France will need to get a result against Hungary to have any chance of progressing. They are no slouches either, even with star man Dominik Szoboszlai out with injury.