England drops Foden, Greenwood for COVID-19 rule breaches

England players Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood were fined by Icelandic authorities and dropped from the squad on Monday for breaching coronavirus rules in Reykjavik after making their international debuts.

Social media video was published purporting to show the players meeting women from outside the team bubble after the 1-0 victory against Iceland in the Nations League on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Foden and 18-year-old Greenwood, who were both fined 250,000 Icelandic króna ($1,800) by authorities, were sent back to England and will miss Tuesday’s match against Denmark.

The England traveling group, which is regularly tested for COVID-19, was exempt from the Icelandic requirements to quarantine for five days on arrival on the basis that they stayed with the same group except when they were at the stadium for the match.

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The players did not leave the team hotel but still breached the protocols that were put in place to ensure national teams could play their first international matches since the pandemic was declared in March.

“I made a poor decision and my behavior didn’t meet the standards expected of me,” Foden said in an apology statement. “I breached COVID-19 protocols put in place to protect myself and my England colleagues.

“As a consequence I will now miss the opportunity to travel to Denmark with the squad, and that hurts. I will learn a valuable lesson from this error in judgement.”

The players, who will miss Tuesday’s match against Denmark, were “naive,” England coach Gareth Southgate said.

“I recognize their age but of course, the whole world is dealing with this pandemic and there’s responsibility on every age group to make sure that they play their part in keeping each other safe and not spreading the virus,” Southgate said. “So we’re certainly not underestimating how important it’s been to try and keep that bubble as we have.”

The English Football Association launched an investigation.

“We have spoken to the Football Association of Iceland to offer our apologies for this incident and to ensure them that we are taking the appropriate steps,” the FA said. “We have also assured the Danish Football Union that all other players and staff members have been isolated within our group throughout this period.”

Both players will return to their clubs in Manchester.

Manchester United said it was “disappointed” by Greenwood’s conduct.

Foden’s conduct was branded “totally inappropriate” by his club, Manchester City.

“His behavior not only directly contravenes strict guidelines related to COVID-19, but also falls well below the standard expected of a Manchester City player and England international,” City said in a statement. “The club supports the FA regarding this incident, and officials from the club are now in touch in relation to Phil’s enforced early return to the U.K.”

The need for players to limit the risk of being infected was highlighted on Monday by City also announcing that two players — Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte — tested positive for the coronavirus.

The players have not displayed any symptoms and are in self-isolation two weeks before City starts its season against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sept. 21.

The Premier League announced on Monday that of 1,605 tests conducted in the last week on players and staff at the 20 clubs, three were positive.

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