Belgium game moved after Brussels attacks; Euro 2016 as planned

Next week's football friendly between Belgium and Portugal has been moved to Portugal in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks while France is determined to go ahead as planned in staging the Euro 2016 tournament in summer.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio Wednesday it is "vital" that the continental championships, and other big events like the Tour de France, take place despite an ongoing fear of further attacks.

"Yes, football's Euros, like the Tour de France and other major events, will take place," Valls said.

The March 29 friendly between Belgium and Portugal in Brussels was meanwhile cancelled in the wake of Tuesday's attacks in the capital in which 31 people died and more than 250 were injured.

"For security reasons and precaution, the City of Brussels has asked the Belgian FA to cancel the match," the Belgian football federation KBVB said in a statement.

The KNVB announced shortly afterwards that the game will take place after all on Tuesday, but in the Portuguese town of Leiria which was proposed by the Portuguese Federation FPF.

"The Belgian FA appreciates the availability, flexibility and solutions offered by the Portuguese Federation. The FPF expresses its full solidarity with the Belgian FA in this tough and emotional period," the KBVB said."

It was good news for the players and coach Marc Wilmots in their Euro preparations as the world ranking leaders already had their last game, with Spain set for November 17 last year, cancelled in the wake of the attacks in Paris in which 130 people died.

The Stade de France - where France were playing Germany at the time - was one of the targets on November 13.

The stadium in St Denis has since seen several rugby matches and France will play their first football game there since the attacks on Tuesday in a friendly against Russia.

It is also a key venue for Euro 2016, hosting among other games the June 10 opener between France and Romania and the final a month later.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has pledged tight security, which will include the popular fan zones which are to be maintained.

French state secretary for sports Thierry Braillard told Wednesday's edition of the L'Equipe sports daily that "the terrorist threat was incorporated into our thinking from the beginning" and that "you cannot do better in terms of security for the Euros."

Braillard said that each team will be protected by elite police officers and insisted there were no plans to cancel or postpone the tournament because it "would prove these cowards right."

Valls struck a similar note, naming the big and popular major events "a force for our democracy" and "the best responses to this ideology of death."

The continental football body UEFA said in a statement e-mailed to dpa that "we are confident that all security measures will be in place for a safe and festive Euro."

Tournament director Martin Kallen said three weeks ago that contingency plans are being drawn up in case of a threat or an attack which could include matches being postponed and played the next day, possibly in another city and behind closed doors.

UEFA said Wednesday "there are no plans to play matches behind closed-doors" but added "we are nevertheless working on contingency plans and on multiple scenarios around crisis situations since we take the security of all participants very seriously."

Security is also major aspect at many Euro tune-up games and friendlies to be played between Wednesday night and Tuesday.

France face the Netherlands on Friday in Amsterdam, with Dutch officials monitoring the situation but the match set to go ahead as planned as it stands.

World champions Germany host England in Berlin Saturday and Italy three days later in Munich, their first games since the Paris trauma as a November 17 friendly with the Dutch was called off shortly before kick-off because of a terror threat.

Germany coach Joachim Loew on Wednesday named the Brussels attacks "terrible" and expressed hope "that the Euro takes place peacefully and that sports will be at the centre."

Last update: Wed, 23/03/2016 - 15:23

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