England’s World Cup qualifier in Andorra continues despite an awe-inspiring flame and a close call for at least one worker at the country’s national stadium.
The three lions are in the Pyrenees to host the world’s 156th ranked side at the Estadi Nacional, where manager Gareth Southgate and stand-in skipper Kieran Trippier spoke to the media after a scheduled training session.
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Shortly after England left the stadium with 3,300 capacities, a wild flame erupted around the TV portal next to the artificial court, which was damaged in the ensuing chaos.
Black smoke filled the air as flames flowed through the structure in Andorra la Vella, where workers desperately tried to dampen the fire from spreading.
News footage captured a man who was nearly crushed by part of the structure next to the stadium as it burned and crashed to the ground in the inferno.
Stadium staff tried to get the fire under control with sprinklers before firefighters arrived, and a spectator said welders had been working there when the fire started.
Part of the excavation melted, and the fourth official shelter was destroyed, as was the video assistant judge’s screen.
The walls turned black and there was debris on part of the much-discussed artificial surface.
The Football Association was initially unsure whether there would be an impact on Saturday night’s qualifier, but the Andorra Football Association confirmed the match is not affected by the fire.
A spokesman for the governing body said: “No injuries have been reported, only property damage and the schedule continues as planned … The match is being played.”
The World Cup qualifier continues as planned
The cleanup operation was underway when Andorra trained on Friday night, with cones laid out to show the area for players to avoid.
The damaged surface needs to be replaced before Saturday’s match, with Andorra head coach Koldo Alvarez relaxing over the whole situation.
Meanwhile, Trippier reckoned he could not wait to lead England out to fans for the first time.
The 31-year-old has established himself as a key component in the setup of the Three Lions since making his debut in a friendly match against France in 2017.
Atletico Madrid defender Trippier shone during the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and wins his 35th cap in Andorra.
He stood out from the national team in a friendly match against Wales this time last year, but it will be the first time he will lead England in front of supporters.
“Incredible feeling,” Trippier said. “I’m really speechless to captain my country and lead the boys out. Something I’ll never ever forget.”
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