Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

First blood to hosts as roof set to stay closed

David Kelly

David Kelly

Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish side landed in Stockholm last night to learn that they have lost the Cold War with Sweden after FIFA put the lid on any prospect of the Friends Arena roof being opened for tomorrow's crucial World Cup qualifier.

As snow-clad Stockholm braced itself for temperatures well below freezing for the rest of the week, a final decision is expected from the FIFA match delegate at this morning's training session.

However, well-informed sources at last night's balmy Swedish training session, held beneath the closed roof and upon the excellent playing surface which was re-laid last Monday, indicated that there would be little option other than to keep the roof closed.

As it stands, there is already a vast amount of surface snowfall on the pitch and opening the roof would be an utterly hazardous exercise, as well as compromising stadium safety and the pitch surface.

"Common sense says if it's cold and snowy, everyone wants to have the conditions as good as possible and that's with a closed roof," said Swedish team manager Lars Richt.

Trapattoni believes that keeping the roof open will only serve to increase the volume levels from the home crowd, thus making life even more difficult for his charges.

"When it is closed, it has an echo, which is no good," he said. "It is too loud. I was in Germany with this situation, and it was bad for us because of the crowd."

A FIFA spokesman added: "FIFA is currently assessing the weather situation with the host association and, as you will acknowledge, common sense should prevail at all times in order to ensure the best-playing football conditions to both teams as well as ensure safety and security to the public and local organising committee on duty.

"At the moment, the roof is closed and the weather conditions are proven to be very adverse, with ice and snow falls and extreme temperatures.

"The weather forecast seems not to show any kind of drastic improvement in this respect. Opening the roof would be too dangerous (it's currently covered with ice and snow) and certainly difficult to understand if we want to preserve the pitch fit and playing conditions that are normal.

"At the time of writing, we do not see how (and why) we could imagine opening the roof, but the final decision will be taken upon arrival of our match commissioner on site."

Although Trapattoni had expressed concern about the roof being open, Marco Tardelli (above) believes that the issue will not affect Ireland tomorrow.

"We are very strong and it makes no difference to us whether we play with the roof closed or not," he said. "For me, it's no problem, but I don't know about the players... Maybe we prefer if there's fresh air. But if the roof is closed, it's possible to play."

Irish Independent

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