Norway moves 'home' World Cup qualifier to neutral Spain

Dortmund's scorer Erling Haaland celebrates after winning the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Norway’s national soccer team will play its first “home” World Cup qualifying game at a neutral venue in Spain next month because of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Norwegian soccer federation said Tuesday the game against Turkey on March 27 will be played in Malaga instead of Oslo. No fans will be allowed to attend.

Norway will begin its World Cup qualifying program with a game at Gibraltar on March 24 before going to Spain to play Turkey three days later. The group also includes the Netherlands.

The change in venue is the first in European qualifying to be forced by travel and quarantine rules.

In Asia, only four World Cup qualifiers are going ahead next month — involving only eight of the 40 teams still involved. The rest of the program has been postponed to June because of current health protocols.

FIFA has extended exemptions in mandatory release rules amid the pandemic so players worldwide can be refused permission by their clubs to join up with national teams.

Norwegian club Molde played a Europa League home game in Spain last week, hosting Hoffenheim in Villarreal. The Spanish soccer federation had to approve both changes.

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