Southgate defends role of international football amid Covid cases

London (AFP) –


England manager Gareth Southgate has defended the continuation of international football amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite a host of positive tests during the current international break.

Cristiano Ronaldo became the most high-profile footballer yet to contract Covid-19 as the Portuguese football federation announced its superstar captain had tested positive on Tuesday.

Scotland and Ireland's plans for crucial Euro 2020 playoff matches were also disrupted by positive tests while others were forced into self-isolation after being in close contact with teammates who went on to test positive.

England have so far not registered any positive cases.

The Three Lions face Denmark on Wednesday in the last of three internationals over the past week and are due to face New Zealand, Belgium and Iceland next month.

But Southgate is hoping the November international break will not be curtailed under pressure from clubs.

"The reality of the world at the moment is we don't know what the rules will be. In this day and age you have to live form week to week," said Southgate.

"There is no reason international football should be a higher risk. We are in a fortunate position that the majority of our players are travelling from within England to get to us.

"We have Jadon (Sancho) and Kieran (Trippier) who travel from abroad, but it's easier for us to get the group together initially then we try to take the right precautions. We always followed the Premier League guidelines. To this point we've been fortunate."

On the field, Southgate's men have had a good week with a 2-1 win over world number one-ranked Belgium in the Nations League and a 3-0 friendly victory over Wales.

Marcus Rashford scored his side's equaliser against Belgium to round off a special few days for the Manchester United forward after he was awarded an MBE for his work in the fight against child poverty.

Rashford helped force a government U-turn over food vouchers for school children during the summer holidays and has joined forces with major supermarkets to form a taskforce to tackle the issue.

However, the 22-year-old insists his hard work off the field is having no impact on his performances for club and country.

"I have a team that work behind me and we make sure we are all on the same page," said Rashford.

"At the moment I feel in a good headspace I feel comfortable doing both things. I feel ready to train every day and play the games.

"If it was taking a toll, I would have to look at a different way of doing things and find a way to support the kids and keep my career going in the right direction."