Russia World Cup match postponed
BELFAST, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Fabio Capello’s Russia will have to wait 24 hours to play their World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland after Friday’s clash was postponed due to heavy snow in Belfast.
Former England coach Capello and his players trained on Thursday ahead of the qualifier, but overnight snow and rain, which persisted during Friday afternoon, made the Windsor Park pitch unplayable.
Norwegian referee Tom Hagen and a team of match delegates made a series of inspections starting from 1000GMT, but the decision was finally made to call off the game at 1430GMT
The fixture has been rescheduled for 1500GMT on Saturday as officials believe the worst of the snow will have passed by then.
Irish FA head of communications Geoff Wilson said: “There has to be an attempt to play the game tomorrow (Saturday) because FIFA rules say every effort has to be made to play the game the day after postponement.
“We will have a briefing session at 1030GMT and have another look at the pitch with the referee and take things from there.
“We’re open to the elements here and I think if you look at the elements right now it probably doesn’t look very positive.
“That being said, stranger things have happened.
“There is a real willingness on both federations to play. But according to the weather forecast it is due to be bad for parts of tomorrow.”
Even if the Russia game does go ahead, there are also problems looming over Northern Ireland’s Group F tie against Israel on Tuesday.
Wilson admitted there was a potential issue with the Israel match as the pitch may not be up to staging two games in quick succession in such bad conditions.
“With the weather as it is, even if the game goes ahead tomorrow that could cause issues with the pitch and the conditions for Israel but we have to take one game at a time,” he added.
IFA staff, including chief executive Patrick Nelson, did their best to battle the weather this morning by shovelling snow from the pitch in grim conditions, but their efforts were in vain.
It is the first time a competitive international fixture in Belfast has had to be called off because of the weather.
The postponement also means Capello’s team will have less time to recover before their glamour friendly against Brazil at Chelsea‘s Stamford Bridge on Monday.