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Giroud scores twice for France; Kepa called up to ‘parallel’ Spain squad

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Football in a pandemic!

France v Bulgaria - International Friendly Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Olivier Giroud is now just five goals shy of Thierry Henry’s all-time France goalscoring record after the Chelsea veteran grabbed a brace in Les Bleus’ 3-0 friendly win over Bulgaria, their last preparatory match before Euro 2020.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring in the first half, but France didn’t seal the victory until the final ten minutes, when Giroud, on as a substitute for Karim Benzema, struck twice in quick succession — the first a slick near post finish, the second an easy far-post tap-in. Benzema had gotten the start but appeared to pick up a knee injury just before half-time. It’s supposedly just a muscle contusion rather than any ligament damage, so the Real Madrid striker, back in the national team after a five-year hiatus, is still expected to be ready for the start of their Euro campaign next week.

N’Golo Kanté played just over an hour; Kurt Zouma didn’t see any action.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Hakim Ziyech had a hand in the game’s only goal as Morocco beat Ghana, 1-0, in a friendly, and we’ve had the first COVID-related drama of the (pre-)tournament, with Spain sitting out their preparatory friendly against Lithuania and drafting in their U21 squad to play instead (who won handily, 4-0).

The entire Spain squad, including César Azpilicueta, are isolating at the moment in their training ground “bubble” after Sergio Busquets tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Busquets has been sent home, though may yet rejoin the squad in 10 days (in time for their final group game), provided he tests negative. The bigger concern is if any of the rest of the squad test positive in the next few days (since tests are a lagging indicator), which could lead to some very interesting scenarios.

As a precaution, Spain have called up six players into a “parallel” squad, who are training separately from the main 24-man squad (now 23). One of the six is Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who’s thus on standby should one of the three goalkeepers called up ahead of him (De Gea, Simon, Sánchez) test positive. Spain have until Saturday to make any emergency changes to their squad list.