MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. A match between the national football teams of Russia and Belgium next June will set the pace of all matches of the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup in Russia’s St. Petersburg, Alexei Sorokin, the head of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Russia-2020, told TASS on Monday.
The Final Draw for the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup was held on November 30 in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Twenty four national football teams, which have cleared the qualifications round, were divided into six groups with four teams in each. Russia was placed in Group B, and will play against Belgium (in St. Petersburg on June 13), Finland (in St. Petersburg on June 17) and Denmark (in Copenhagen on June 22).
"We could have organized any match at any date, but it is certainly good that home matches of the Russian national football team will be played right at the beginning as they will set a particular pace," Sorokin said in an interview with TASS.
"We knew that the first match [of the Russian team] was impossible to be scheduled for June 12 [the opening day of the championship]," he continued. "It is extremely good that the [Russia-Belgium] match will be played the following day."
The 2020 UEFA Euro Cup opens on June 12 in Italy’s Rome with a match between hosts Italy and Turkey.
"There are currently no predictions about the attendance of football fans of the Belgian and Finnish teams at the matches in St. Petersburg, but we expect them to fill between 20 and 30% [of the stadium’s capacity]," Sorokin said. "No one will be able to tell the exact figure at the moment, because the tickets will be redistributed, while the national federations are currently in their second window of ticket sales for the championship. I believe that the number of tickets may be very significant."
Russia played 10 international fixtures this year, which were all qualifiers for the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup — in March, Russia lost to Belgium 1-3 and defeated Kazakhstan 4-0; in June, Russia beat San Marino and Cyprus (9-0 and 1-0 respectively); in September, the team routed Scotland (2-1) and Kazakhstan (1-0); in October the Russian footballers blanked Scotland 4-0 and then blazed past Cyprus 5-0.
Playing two international fixtures this month, the Russian team lost again to Belgium 1-4 at home and then enjoyed a confident 5-0 away win over San Marino.
Sorokin also told TASS it was highly important for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) that a fan zone would be opened on Palace Square in St. Petersburg for the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup.
"It was extremely important for the UEFA as they had initiated an opening of two areas for football fans in each host city," Sorokin said. "One of the areas will be called the Football Village and the other — the Fan Zone. Both areas have a slightly different purpose."
"We had numerous talks with the municipal authorities on how we can manage the creation of these areas and I believe that considering the life of the city during this period of the year we have reached an optimal agreement," he stated.
St. Petersburg Vice Governor Vladimir Kirillov held a bilateral meeting with UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin on November 30 in Bucharest. The press office of the St. Petersburg governor later announced that Kirillov and Ceferin agreed on two locations for football fans in St. Petersburg for the upcoming European championship, namely on Palace Square and Konyushennaya (Stable) Square.
The Fan Zone on Palace Square will be operational only for a limited period of time during the European football championship and, according to plans, it will serve as a platform for broadcasting of play-off matches between July 3 and 12.
The matches of the 2020 Euro Cup will be held at stadiums in 12 different cities across Europe, namely in London (England), Munich (Germany), Rome (Italy), Baku (Azerbaijan), St. Petersburg (Russia), Bucharest (Romania), Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Dublin (Ireland), Bilbao (Spain), Budapest (Hungary), Glasgow (Scotland) and Copenhagen (Denmark) between June 12 and July 12, 2020.
Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg was granted the right to host three group stage matches and one of the quarterfinals of the 2020 UEFA Euro Cup. The newly-built football arena in St. Petersburg hosted the opening and final matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and also served as one of the 12 stadiums across the country hosting matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The over 62,300-seat capacity stadium was laid down in the western part of Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg in 2007 and commissioned in early 2017. It serves as a home stadium for Zenit St. Petersburg football club.
A decision to hold the 2020 Euro Cup, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary that year, in various European countries instead of in one or two hosting countries was made at the UEFA Executive Committee’s meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 6, 2012.