Football UEFA asks Euro 2020 teams not to remove bottles
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UEFA asks Euro 2020 teams not to remove bottles

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Players at Euro 2020 have been asked to stop removing strategically placed sponsor drinks from the news conference platforms, UEFA says.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo had started the trend by moving aside bottles of Coca-Cola and pointedly grabbing water instead as he sat down to speak to the media on Monday (local time).

Paul Pogba and Manuel Locatelli soon followed suit by removing sponsor bottles away from the view of cameras when taking their seats at press conferences this week.

UEFA’s subsequent demand was immediately ignored on Thursday as Ukraine skipper Andriy Yarmolenko chose to interfere with the drinks bottles at a post-match news conference in a trend that’s amusing social media users but disconcerting organisers.

Ronaldo’s actions – widely shared and viewed by millions around the world – saw stock in the drinks company and Euro 2020 sponsor dip 1.6%, losing about $US4 billion ($A5.3 billion) in value.

Yarmolenko, fresh from scoring in his team’s 2-1 win over North Macedonia, took advantage of the limelight for some mischief.

“Can I do something? I saw Ronaldo doing this,” he said, grinning. “I want to move the (Coca-Cola bottles) here and I want to move the beer here. Coke and Heineken, please get in touch!”

The 31-year-old then dissolved into laughter before moving the bottles back to their original positions in front of him.

France midfielder Pogba, a practising Muslim, had removed a Heineken bottle at a news conference on Tuesday, while Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli also moved Coca-Cola bottles on Wednesday, replacing them with water.

European governing body UEFA took a dim view of the players’ gesture, reminding teams they have contractual obligations towards tournament sponsors.

Coca-Cola did not immediately comment on Yarmolenko’s action, though after the Ronaldo incident it referred to a UEFA statement outlining the company’s range of drinks also including waters, isotonic sports drinks, juices, coffee and tea.

Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Manuel Locatelli all removed sponsor bottles away from the view of cameras when taking their seats at this week.

Euro 2020 tournament director Martin Kallen said on Thursday that UEFA has “communicated with the teams regarding this matter.”

“It is important because the revenues of the sponsors are important for the tournament and for European football,” Kallen said in a briefing.

On the field, the Netherlands have eased into the last 16 at Euro 2020 as group winners thanks to a 2-0 win over Austria which also eliminated North Macedonia.

Memphis Depay netted with a penalty after 11 minutes and Denzel Dumfries scored after the break in Amsterdam to give the Dutch six points from six in Group C.

They join Italy and Belgium in already qualifying for the knockout stages with a group game to spare.

“It was fantastic. The game was different (to the first group win over Ukraine 3-2). We created chances and deserved to win,” Dumfries said.

Groups are determined by head-to-heads if teams finish level, meaning tournament debutants North Macedonia are now guaranteed to finish bottom of Group C and are out, irrespective of their final game against the Dutch on Monday.

They lost to both Austria and Ukraine.

Austria now face a crunch clash with Ukraine knowing only a win will put them through as the second-placed team. Third place might be enough for the last 16 depending on other results.

“It is bitter obviously,” said Austria captain David Alaba, who conceded the penalty. “We tried to be brave and play a high line. We just didn’t have the answers.”

Matthijs de Ligt returned to the Dutch starting line-up having missed the 3-2 opening win over Ukraine with a groin problem.

Austria brought in Michael Gregoritsch, who scored off the bench in the 3-1 win over North Macedonia, with fellow forward Sasa Kalajdzic dropping out. Marko Arnautovic was suspended for a controversial goal celebration in the first group match.

A sea of orange welcomed the players and the boisterous crowd was soon jumping for joy. Alaba trod on the foot of Dumfries and the referee pointed to the spot after video review.

Depay dispatched the spot-kick in style and the Dutch were comfortable from there on.

The forward could have had two more in the first half, hitting the side netting with a fierce effort before missing a glorious opportunity when he scooped over from close in.

The Netherlands were again on top in the second half with Austria keeper Daniel Bachmann saving well from Stefan de Vrij before De Ligt missed the target.

The second goal finally came on the break when substitute Donyell Malen squared for Dumfries to slot home on 67 minutes.

Austria barely threatened with Arnautovic’s absence proving costly.

The Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, but now they are back among the big boys. Their last 16 game will be in Budapest against a third-placed team from Group D, E or F.

Elsewhere, quickfire first-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk have earned Ukraine an entertaining 2-1 win over North Macedonia, keeping their hopes alive of reaching the last-16 at the European Championships.

Ezgjan Alioski pulled a goal back in Bucharest on Thursday, scoring the rebound after his penalty had been saved.

Ruslan Malinovsky also missed a late spot-kick but it did not stop Ukraine moving level with Holland and Austria on three points in Group C, having played a game more.

In the day’s other game, Belgium recovered from an early setback to defeat Denmark 2-1.

Substitute Kevin de Bruyne set up one goal and scored the winner himself to give Belgium a 2-1 victory over Denmark in a European Championship match marked by an emotional tribute to Christian Eriksen in the first half.

De Bruyne came on after halftime on Thursday for his first appearance since sustaining a facial fracture in the Champions League final and squared the ball for Thorgan Hazard to equalise in the 55th minute.

The Manchester City superstar then scored in the 71st with a fierce low drive from outside the area.

It was Denmark’s first game since their star Eriksen’s collapse in Saturday’s match against Finland – and the hosts started at a furious pace to honour him at a raucous Parken Stadium.

Yussuf Poulsen scored with a low shot inside the far post in only the second minute before players from both teams then halted play after 10 minutes as the 25,000 fans rose for a minute of thunderous applause in tribute to Danish No.10 Eriksen.

-with agencies