Soccer-France's preparation for Ukraine game hampered by hotel COVID cases

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World Cup Qualifiers - UEFA Qualifiers - Ukraine Training

SAINT-DENIS, France (Reuters) - France's preparations for their opening World Cup qualifier against Ukraine have been hampered by a string of COVID-19 cases at their usual pre-game hotel which forced them to stay at their training camp on Tuesday.

On the eve of matches, Les Bleus usually stay at the Grand Hotel in Enghien-les-Bains, which is some 20 minutes from the Stade de France, but the world champions are now staying in Clairefontaine, more than an hour from the stadium, after members of the hotel staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

"We're adapting. With several COVID cases at the hotel it was unthinkable to stay there," coach Didier Deschamps told a news conference.

"It's not ideal as our journey to get to the stadium will be longer but we're comfortable at Clairefontaine."

France start their campaign on Wednesday against Ukraine in Group D, which also features Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Finland.

Les Bleus demolished Ukraine 7-1 in a friendly last October, but their opponents were ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak and could not field their best team in Paris.

"It's not the same team coming this time," warned Deschamps. "They are very good technically, they play a possession game and combine a lot on the flanks with their fullbacks.

Ukraine beat Germany and Spain in the Nations League last October.

France next travel to Kazakhstan on Sunday before a trip to Bosnia on March 31.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)