UEFA insists there are no plans to move the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final away from Wembley.

England's national stadium is due to host five knockout matches, but UEFA confirmed last week there is a "contingency plan" in place should overseas supporters be forced to quarantine for 10 days in line with coronavirus protocols in the United Kingdom.

Cases of COVID-19 have been increasing in recent weeks in the UK, fuelled by the Delta variant first identified in India, with a further 10,633 positive tests on Monday.

Recent reports suggested UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was prepared to move the semi-finals and final to Budapest, while Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has called for the prestige fixtures to be played elsewhere, with Rome touted as another alternative.

However, European football's governing body remains committed to staging the tournament's three biggest fixtures at Wembley.

"UEFA, the English FA and the English authorities are working closely together successfully to stage the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley and there are no plans to change the venue for those games," a UEFA spokesman said on Tuesday.

The semi-finals are set to take place on July 6 and 7 before the final on July 11.

The prime minister of Italy has called for the Euro 2020 final to be moved from Wembley due to coronavirus concerns.

Mario Draghi says the level of infection in the United Kingdom means alternative venues must be considered.

"I will try to stop the final being held in a country where infections are rising quickly," he said on Monday when asked if Rome could be considered a possible replacement.

Wembley is due to host five knockout matches, including both semi-finals and then the final on July 11. Italy will also play their last-16 game in London against Austria on June 26.

Cases of COVID-19 have been increasing in recent weeks in the UK, fuelled by the Delta variant first identified in India, with a further 10,633 confirmed on Monday.

There are also still strict travel restrictions in place, with almost all travellers required to quarantine for 10 days after entering the country.

This is said to have prompted concerns among foreign officials, VIPs and media members who wish to attend knockout matches at England's national stadium.

UEFA admitted last week that there was a "contingency plan" in place should it decide holding the final in London was impractical after reports suggested president Aleksander Ceferin was prepared to move the game to Budapest.

However, it was reported in England on Monday that the UK government is prepared to allow a crowd of 60,000 people for the game – matching the proposed capacity from the Hungarian capital – while around 2,500 VIPs and media members could be exempt from having to quarantine after arriving for the fixture.

England players Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour – the Scotland midfielder who tested positive for coronavirus.

Gilmour was named man of the match in Scotland's 0-0 Euro 2020 Group D draw at Wembley on Friday but it was confirmed on Monday he would have to isolate for 10 days, forcing him out of Tuesday's crunch clash with Croatia at Hampden Park.

England also conclude their group campaign with a match against the Czech Republic at Wembley, although manager Gareth Southgate has now had his plans disrupted after Mount and Chilwell interacted with their Chelsea team-mate.

"We don't know at the moment," Southgate said when asked at a pre-match news conference whether the pair would be available to play. 

"There's got to be quite a doubt but there's still a lot of discussions and investigations going on behind the scenes,

"At the moment they are isolating, we just have to find out over the next 12 hours or so."

The duo returned negative lateral flow tests on Monday and trained with their international colleagues but, on the advice of Public Health England, they will now be kept away from the rest of Southgate's squad and backroom staff until further advice is received.

"As a precaution at this time and in consultation with Public Health England, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating after interaction with Scotland player Billy Gilmour at Friday's match," a statement published on England's official Twitter account read.

"The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team, pending further discussions with Public Health England.

"The entire squad had lateral flow tests on Monday afternoon and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday's UEFA pre-match PCR tests.

"We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with Public Health England."

In the event of a 10-day isolation period, beginning from their contact with Gilmour, Mount and Chilwell would be ruled out of facing the Czech Republic – who are level on four points with England at the top of the group – but would be available to return for a potential last-16 encounter on Monday or Tuesday of next week, providing they do not return a positive COVID-19 test in the interim period.

Left-back Chilwell is yet to feature for England at Euro 2020 and did not make the matchday squad for their opening 1-0 win over Croatia.

Mount, who had been due to take part in the news conference alongside his boss, has been an integral part of Southgate's side for some time, however, starting both Three Lions' matches at the tournament so far.

England's performance in the draw with Scotland was heavily criticised and if Mount has to sit out against the Czechs, it would only further increase the clamour for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish to be handed a starting berth.

The Tokyo Olympics could take place with no spectators in attendance if the Japanese capital is placed into another state of emergency, the nation's prime minister Yoshihide Suga has said.

Japan is moving ahead with plans to host the Games, which were postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite strong public opposition and warnings from health officials that crowds could lead to increased infection rates.

International fans are already banned from attending, with a decision on domestic spectators due to be taken on Monday.

On Sunday, the state of emergency that had been imposed on Tokyo and eight other prefectures was lifted, though looser restrictions remain in place until July 11.

Speaking to reporters at a vaccination centre, Suga said: "In the event a state of emergency was declared then we can't rule out not having spectators.

"I think that's obvious from the standpoint of making safety and security our utmost priority."

There were 376 new positive tests for COVID-19 reported in Tokyo on Sunday, an increase on the 304 a week prior. The seven-day average in the capital also rose to 388 from 384.1.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto and Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto are due to hold a news conference later on Monday after the culmination of talks surrounding domestic fans.

A group of unnamed Chile players have been fined following a breach of the Copa America's strict coronavirus protocols, the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) announced on Sunday.

Chile's preparations for Monday's clash with Uruguay have been thrown into disarray after a number of players were sanctioned for inviting a barber into their team bubble in Brazil amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Spanish news outlet Marca reported there was a further breach, with at least five players allegedly inviting several women to the team hotel.

The FFC did not confirm or address the claims in the statement released amid doubts over the future of head coach Martin Lasarte.

"The Chilean Football Federation and the coaching staff of the Chilean men's national team recognise the breach of the health bubble of the delegation that participates in the Copa America, with the unauthorised entry of a hairdresser who, despite having a PCR negative, he should not have come into contact with the players. Those involved will be financially sanctioned," the FFC said in a statement.

"We regret what caused this situation and we inform that all the members of the delegation had a negative PCR test this Saturday, June 19."

The 2021 Copa America has been plagued by issues due to the COVID-19 health crisis, having been postponed and re-located from Colombia and Argentina, with all matches played behind closed doors.

Four of the 10 teams competing at the Copa America have had players or staff test positive to COVID-19, including one Chilean delegation member last week.

The FFC did not publicly identify which players were involved in the breach relating to the hairdresser, but Chile captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo insisted they would take responsibility.

"The situation definitely affects us," he said. "We didn't train in our 'normal' conditions but we did work at the hotel.

"Those that were involved take responsibility for it and will have to deal with the consequences."

Chile – who won the Copa in 2015 and 2016, and have four points from two games – are scheduled to play Uruguay in Cuiaba on Monday.

Spain captain Sergio Busquets admitted it was "almost impossible" to stay optimistic when he tested positive for COVID-19 just as Euro 2020 was about to begin.

On Friday, Busquets made an emotional return to the squad following a frustrating stretch in isolation, hugging coach Luis Enrique and team-mates as he arrived back in camp.

The Barcelona midfielder was removed from Spain's training base near Madrid and whisked away by ambulance on June 7, yet now he has been given the all-clear and is poised to contribute as Spain attempt to book a last-16 spot.

Busquets said he was "very happy, on a high" to learn he was healthy to rejoin the group, but recalled the sorry moment when he was told he had the virus.

"The doctor called me, he told me, and at that moment you have a lot of feelings, such as that you don't believe it, concern about what might happen, whether it could be a false positive, many things," Busquets said.

"The moment I got into an ambulance and turned for home, I went through everything. You try to be positive but in those moments it is almost impossible and you think about when you will be well, if you will be able to return, if you will get back on time.

"There are many unanswered questions that go through your head in a bad moment."

Busquets is likely to play his first match of the tournament when Spain face Slovakia next Wednesday in their final Group E game.

Speaking in a video released on the team's official Twitter page, Busquets said: "I am very grateful, not only to team-mates, but also to the president, the staff, the coach, the entire group that is in the bubble."

The 32-year-old said he had kept in constant contact with those in the Spain camp, adding they made it clear "they were waiting for me with open arms".

"I have missed you so much, you don't know how much," he told his team-mates.

"Thank you very much for all the messages worrying about me, making me feel like I was here even though I was at home. I am very proud of all of you, of the first game, of everything you are doing here and that is the way, so there is a lot left and I'm sure everything will go well."

In Busquets' absence, Spain drew 0-0 with Sweden in their opening Euro 2020 Group E game, a match in which they had 85 per cent of the possession but only five shots on target.

They play their second group game against Poland in Seville on Saturday, with Busquets expected to be a spectator after missing almost two weeks of training.

While Busquets will bolster the midfield whenever he returns to action, Spain have pressing issues in attack following the Sweden game.

They have now failed to score in two of their past three matches – having also drawn a blank in the pre-tournament friendly against Portugal earlier this month – and that is as many scoreless performances as they had in their previous 51 internationals.

Spain have not experienced successive games without finding the back of the net since 2013 at the Confederations Cup, and should they again miss out against Poland it would mean the Slovakia game becomes hugely important.

Spain captain Sergio Busquets admitted it was "almost impossible" to stay optimistic when he tested positive for COVID-19 just as Euro 2020 was about to begin.

On Friday, Busquets made an emotional return to the squad following a frustrating stretch in isolation, hugging coach Luis Enrique and team-mates as he arrived back in camp.

The Barcelona midfielder was removed from Spain's training base near Madrid and whisked away by ambulance on June 7, yet now he has been given the all-clear and is poised to contribute as Spain attempt to book a last-16 spot.

Busquets said he was "very happy, on a high" to learn he was healthy to rejoin the group, but recalled the sorry moment when he was told he had the virus.

"The doctor called me, he told me, and at that moment you have a lot of feelings, such as that you don't believe it, concern about what might happen, whether it could be a false positive, many things," Busquets said.

"The moment I got into an ambulance and turned for home, I went through everything. You try to be positive but in those moments it is almost impossible and you think about when you will be well, if you will be able to return, if you will get back on time.

"There are many unanswered questions that go through your head in a bad moment."

Busquets is likely to play his first match of the tournament when Spain face Slovakia next Wednesday in their final Group E game.

Speaking in a video released on the team's official Twitter page, Busquets said: "I am very grateful, not only to team-mates, but also to the president, the staff, the coach, the entire group that is in the bubble."

The 32-year-old said he had kept in constant contact with those in the Spain camp, adding they made it clear "they were waiting for me with open arms".

"I have missed you so much, you don't know how much," he told his team-mates.

"Thank you very much for all the messages worrying about me, making me feel like I was here even though I was at home. I am very proud of all of you, of the first game, of everything you are doing here and that is the way, so there is a lot left and I'm sure everything will go well."

In Busquets' absence, Spain drew 0-0 with Sweden in their opening Euro 2020 Group E game, a match in which they had 85 per cent of the possession but only five shots on target.

They play their second group game against Poland in Seville on Saturday, with Busquets expected to be a spectator after missing almost two weeks of training.

While Busquets will bolster the midfield whenever he returns to action, Spain have pressing issues in attack following the Sweden game.

They have now failed to score in two of their past three matches – having also drawn a blank in the pre-tournament friendly against Portugal earlier this month – and that is as many scoreless performances as they had in their previous 51 internationals.

Spain have not experienced successive games without finding the back of the net since 2013 at the Confederations Cup, and should they again miss out against Poland it would mean the Slovakia game becomes hugely important.

Sergio Busquets is back in the Spain squad after returning a negative coronavirus test.

The Barcelona midfielder had been isolating since testing positive for the virus on June 7, which prompted concern of a possible outbreak in the camp prior to the start of Euro 2020.

Coach Luis Enrique summoned players to train in a parallel bubble in case of further infections, but only Diego Llorente returned what was later suspected to be a false positive test.

On Friday, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said Busquets would be returning to the squad after testing negative for COVID-19 and travel with his team-mates for Saturday's match with Poland in Seville.

In Busquets' absence, Spain drew 0-0 with Sweden in their opening Euro 2020 Group E game, a match in which they had 85 per cent of the possession but only five shots on target.

They have won eight out of 10 previous matches against Poland, with their only defeat coming in a friendly in Barcelona in November 1980.

La Roja are looking to avoid consecutive scoreless performances for the first time since the 2013 Confederations Cup.

 

Chris Paul crumpled to the floor of Phoenix Suns Arena, grimacing and twisting with pain while he grasped at his right shoulder.

For all his regular-season accolades – 11 All-Star Games, nine All-NBA teams, four assists titles and six steals titles – deep playoff runs have been hard to come by for Paul.

Whether due to fate or disappointing failure, the future Hall of Fame point guard has only played in one Conference Finals series. After suffering a hamstring injury in 2018, Paul watched from the sideline as his Houston Rockets lost Games 6 and 7 to the Golden State Warriors, extinguishing his best chance to date to win a title.

Three years later, as Paul left the floor with a right shoulder injury during Game 1 of the Suns' first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers, it must have felt as if the fates were conspiring against him again. After leading Phoenix to the NBA's second-best record in 2020-21, Paul got to face LeBron James and the defending champions as a reward. Then an injury less than 15 minutes into the postseason?

What a hopeless feeling that must have been.

Paul didn't miss a game in the series but looked like a shell of himself through Game 3, averaging 6.7 points on 38.1 per cent shooting as the Suns trailed 2-1 in the series. The tide turned in Game 4, however, with Anthony Davis succumbing to injury and with Paul's shoulder beginning to steadily improve.

After ousting the Lakers in six games, Paul was nearly flawless in a sweep of the Denver Nuggets and MVP Nikola Jokic. He averaged 25.5 points and 10.3 assists over four games and rose to the occasion in the clutch, scoring 17.0 points per game in the second half on absurd 78.8 per cent shooting. In fourth quarters that series, Paul was 16 for 19 from the field (84.2 per cent), including a perfect mark on his four three-point attempts.

Paul totalled 41 assists, the most since 1984-85 in a playoff series while committing five or fewer turnovers. For the third time in his postseason career, he had 15 assists and no turnovers in Game 2, a feat that has only been done seven times in a playoff game since 1984-85.

At 36 years old, Paul painted one of the most memorable masterpieces of his career.

Then came another devastating blow, when Paul was sidelined in accordance with the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols on Wednesday morning, keeping him in quarantine indefinitely. It has not been specified whether Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, or exactly why he has entered the protocols.

Going forward, the Suns' road only gets tougher, facing either the top-seeded Utah Jazz or Paul's former team – the Los Angeles Clippers – in the Western Conference Finals, and Phoenix could be forced to start the series without their star point guard.

Despite the challenge ahead, it is tempting to consider what a first career NBA Finals appearance – or first career title – would do for the legacy of one of the most underrated players of his era.

Paul's brilliance can sometimes go unnoticed, especially in a league full of talented scorers who appear ready to drop 50 in any given game. His career high is 43 points, and the last time he hit 40 was in 2016.

But what's set Paul apart since the day he entered the league are his abilities to command an offense and distribute to team-mates. He is one of six players with over 10,000 career assists and, all things being equal, will move into third on the all-time helpers list next season, trailing only John Stockton and Jason Kidd.

Among the five players with the most assists in NBA history, Paul's 18.3 points per game is the highest mark, out-pacing Steve Nash's 14.3 by a healthy margin.

Paul is also fifth all-time with 2,332 career steals and could move up a spot or two on that list in two years' time.

But Paul's true impact defies traditional box score statistics. This postseason, the Suns have a scoring differential of plus 13.0 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the court, and Phoenix are shooting nearly 50 per cent from the floor with their conductor in the game.

Moreover, Paul's teams simply win.

His teams have a record of 698-392 when he plays, or an average of 53-29 over an 82-game season. Paul has played for five teams in his career, and each have improved their record in Paul's first year over the previous season. On average, a team adding Paul to the roster increase their win percentage by .168, the equivalent of 14 added wins over an 82-game season.

If Paul never played another game, he would still be a guaranteed Hall of Famer. And after this latest disruption, perhaps the 2021 playoffs will be yet another chapter in a book of postseasons gone wrong for an otherwise legendary player.

But almost every team remaining in this year’s playoffs is dealing with attrition, including both the Suns' potential opponents in the next round. Phoenix are rated by bookmakers as the second favourites for the championship, trailing only the Brooklyn Nets.

Paul's legacy should be able to stand alone, with or without a title. But adding a championship ring would go a long way towards forcing his detractors to finally acknowledge his consistent brilliance.

The US Open is set to be the first tennis grand slam to operate at full spectator capacity for its duration since COVID-19 became a global crisis.

Tournament organisers said on Thursday that the major, which was played behind closed doors in 2020, would not impose reduce attendance measures this year.

"New York is back, and so are the fans," a statement on the tournament's website said. "The 2021 US Open will welcome fans back to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at 100 per cent capacity for the two-week tournament."

Mike Dowse, chief executive of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), said: "We are extremely excited to be able to welcome our incredible fans back to the US Open this year.

"While we were proud that we were able to hold the event in 2020, we missed having our fans on-site, because we know that they are a large part of what makes the US Open experience unlike any other.

"Indeed, the challenges presented by the pandemic were tough on us all, but our sport came together like never before and tackled each challenge head on."

Dowse added: "Our sport surged in the toughest of times, and this year's US Open promises to be an unforgettable celebration of the game, those who play it, and those who revel in it."

The tournament added that it would follow all COVID-related guidelines, although its intention clearly is to run the major in as normal a manner as is possible.

The US Open's announcement came on the day tickets went on sale for the upcoming Wimbledon championship, which begins on June 28. The grass-court slam was cancelled last year.

Wimbledon will operate at a 50 per cent attendance restriction for much of its duration, although the weekend of the finals is due to see Centre Court at 100 per cent capacity.

The French Open functioned with a vastly reduced number of tickets available in both its 2020 and 2021 editions, compared to previous years.

The Australian Open in February capped spectator numbers at 30,000, although a snap lockdown in Melbourne meant there were no crowds for five days midway through the event, with Rod Laver Arena then limited to approximately 50 per cent capacity for the closing stretch of the event.

Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem won the women's and men's singles titles at the 2020 US Open, and this year's tournament runs from August 30 to September 12.

There will be capacity crowds for the Wimbledon finals next month and around 45,000 people are set to be allowed into Wembley for the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a four-week delay in lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England to July 19 due to rising cases of the Delta variant.

However, Wimbledon and the European Championship are being treated as test events, so there is set to be a full house of 15,000 on Centre Court for the championship matches on the weekend of July 10-11.

The grass-court grand slam will be the first outdoor sporting event to have a capacity crowd since the start of the pandemic.

When the tournament, which was not staged last year due to the COVID-19 crisis, starts on June 28 it will be at 50 per cent capacity.

A statement from the All England Club said: "We are pleased to have worked closely with the government, public health bodies, and our local authority in Merton, to confirm that, as part of this next phase of pilot events, The Championships 2021 will begin on Monday 28 June with 50 per cent capacity across the Grounds, building to full capacity crowds of 15,000 on Centre Court for the finals weekend.

"This will enable us to fulfil our aspiration of staging the best Wimbledon possible within the current circumstances, with the health and safety of all those who make Wimbledon happen - our guests, competitors, members, staff, media, officials, local residents, and partners - remaining our highest priority."

Crowds for England's first two Euro 2020 group games at Wembley have been capped at 22,500, but that figure is expected to be doubled so the stadium is half full for the semi-finals and final.

The semi-finals will be staged on July 6 and 7, with the final held on July 11.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We want to gather further evidence on how we can open up all big events safely, and for good.

"The expansion of trials of the NHS app and lateral flow testing will mean that bigger crowds will be able to attend a limited number of major sporting and cultural events early this summer as part of our events research programme.

"In the next few weeks, this means more fans enjoying the Euros and Wimbledon, and some of our biggest cultural and sports events."

Lionel Messi admitted he is concerned about the coronavirus situation as the superstar captain targets a long-awaited title with Argentina at the Copa America.

Messi's Argentina will open their Copa America campaign against rivals Chile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Monday.

Brazil is hosting the Copa after CONMEBOL controversially removed Argentina and Colombia as co-hosts due to respective political and COVID-19 issues.

Despite being one of the country's worst hit by the coronavirus health crisis, Brazil was awarded hosting duties for this year's showpiece event, which was already pushed back a year because of COVID-19.

Defending champions Brazil won 3-0 on Sunday against a Venezuela side that had reported 12 positive coronavirus tests amongst their ranks earlier in the week.

Speaking on the eve of Argentina's first match, Messi told reporters: "We are concerned about the situation because it is a risk for all of us to catch COVID-19.

"Although we try to take care of ourselves and do everything they tell us is not easy, because then these things happen and we face other national teams where there is a risk of contagion.

"We will try to do our best so that it does not happen to us, but this does not depend only on us and anything can happen."

Despite his remarkable Barcelona success, Messi is yet to win a senior trophy with Argentina following back-to-back runners-up performances at the Copa America 2015 and 2016, having also fallen short in the 2007 final against Brazil.

La Albiceleste and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi also lost in the 2014 World Cup decider – beaten by Germany.

"I always said that I am available to try to be with the national team and give my best," the 33-year-old Messi said.

"My biggest dream is to achieve something with the Argentina, I was close many times and unfortunately it was not given to me, but I will try to keep looking for it until it is given to me.

"If the coach who is there thinks that I can continue contributing to the team, I will always want to be there and fight for that dream. I was lucky to win everything with my club and individually, and it would be very nice to win something with the national team."

Messi was directly involved in 50 goals (38 scored, 12 assisted) in 47 games for Barca in 2020-21. Only three players in Europe's top-five leagues managed more.

He has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons, while the veteran scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top-five leagues.

Portugal have been dealt a blow ahead of their Euro 2020 campaign, with full-back Joao Cancelo testing positive for COVID-19 and Diogo Dalot called up.

Manchester City right-back Cancelo had an exceptional season for the Premier League champions, and looked set to be a key player for Portugal as they aim to defend their European crown.

Indeed, he scored one and set up another as Portugal ended their preparations with a 4-0 friendly win over Israel on Wednesday.

However, the 27-year-old returned a positive test on Saturday and has now been placed into isolation. Further tests carried out across the rest of the squad revealed no more positive cases.

In accordance with UEFA's rules for the tournament, Portugal have replaced Cancelo with uncapped Manchester United defender Dalot, who spent last season on loan at Milan.

"Under-21 international Diogo Dalot will join the national team's delegation in Budapest to prepare for his debut at Euro 2020," a Portugal statement read.
 
"He will replace Joao Cancelo, who tested positive for COVID-19 following a rapid antigen test carried out this Saturday by the FPF Health and Performance Unit.
 
"The Hungarian health authorities were immediately informed and the player – who is doing well – was placed in isolation.
 
"The result of the test carried out by USP was confirmed by an RT-PCR test carried out on Joao Cancelo also on Saturday and whose result was known on Sunday morning.
 
"In accordance with the COVID-19 protocol defined by UEFA before the EURO 2020 matches, all players and members of the entourage underwent RT-PCR tests on Saturday. The results, with the exception of Joao Cancelo, were negative."

Fernando Santos' side start their campaign against Hungary on Tuesday, before taking on Germany four days later and rounding off their Group F fixtures against world champions France.

Brazil head coach Tite revealed the team asked for the Copa America not to be staged on home soil amid ongoing controversy regarding the showpiece South American tournament.

Defending champions Brazil will host coronavirus-hit Venezuela in the opening game of the Copa America on Sunday following initial concerns the Selecao would boycott the event.

Postponed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Copa America had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina, though both countries were removed as co-hosts following respective political and coronavirus issues.

Brazil was awarded hosting rights, despite being one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

Captain Casemiro and the squad have already criticised CONMEBOL's decision to move the tournament to Brazil and those views have been amplified following news that 12 of Venezuela's travelling party tested positive for coronavirus.

With COVID-19 again casting a shadow over the Copa, Tite told reporters on the eve of the curtain-raiser: "I would like these problems not occurring, not only for Venezuela. The organisation is wrong and this is not political, but it is a direct criticism to CONMEBOL and whoever has defined this in the CBF [Brazilian Football Confederation] that the Copa America will be here, I did not ask for this.

"I do not have any political party and I did not have it throughout my career, I always voted for people and never for political parties. Not having political ideas, they politicised this situation, unfortunately. We chose to participate in the Copa America and be loyal, and the players and the coaching staff asked the president of the CBF before the Copa America was defined in Brazil. Before the president of the republic speaks, we told them that we would be loyal, out of respect for everything that is happening and on the one hand sentimental.

"We asked for some time before speaking publicly and the decision was already defined, this is the real thing and what I want to tell you. From that moment on we decided to express ourselves in a joint way and once it was defined we feel pride in our country, pride in representing the Brazilian national team and I am proud to be their coach, we are proud to be here. Please understand that it is not only black or white, there are also greys, there is the Brazilian national team and there is our discernment to choose to express our opinions outside of here.

"So, from the moment our opinions were contrary to the organisation of the Copa America and now we have to play, there are no excuses and we are going to play. We will take care of ourselves in the best possible way and we will adjust to our responsibilities."

Brazil have gone 20 Copa America games without losing when the tournament takes place on home soil (W12 D8). Their previous defeat was a 3-1 loss to Peru in 1975.

Indeed the Selecao have lifted the title on the previous five occasions they have hosted, with an overall record of W26 D12 L2 – the other reverse coming versus Paraguay back in 1949.

Diego Llorente is set to return to Spain's training camp on Friday after returning a negative test for coronavirus.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said the Leeds United defender had become the second player in camp to test positive for COVID-19 ahead of their Euro 2020 opener, with captain Sergio Busquets the first to have done so.

Llorente was removed from the team's base and was due to begin 10 days of self-isolation in line with COVID-19 health protocols.

However, a statement from the RFEF said a follow-up test undertaken on Wednesday came back negative, and that there are indications of a "false positive" from the original test.

Llorente will undergo further tests on Thursday and Friday and will be allowed to return to camp if both come back negative.

Busquets' positive result plunged Spain's preparations for their Group E opener against Sweden on Monday into chaos, with group training suspended and all members of the squad preparing individually.

It meant Spain's U-21 squad was drafted in for Tuesday's 4-0 win over Lithuania, a match that was supposed to be the main team's final warm-up for the rearranged tournament.

A 17-man parallel squad remains in place at Spain's base should any further replacements be needed.

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