A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was suspended after Brazilian health officials objected to the participation of three Argentine players they say broke quarantine rules.
Just minutes after kickoff on Sunday at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, officials entered the pitch to stop the game with players Argentina walking off the pitch.
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“The referee and the match official will take a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and they will decide what steps to take,” said a statement issued by CONMEBOL.
The players went to the dressing room, although the two coaches, along with Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazilian players, gathered at the side of the pitch a few moments later to discuss the stoppage.
“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?” Messi said in comments heard on television. “We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”
Messi then returned to the dressing room and at 5 p.m. local time, an hour after the game kicked off, the match was officially suspended.
The incident occurred just hours after Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, said four Argentine players must isolate and could not play in the match. The four Argentine players — Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa, and Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur — play in England’s Premier League.
Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the U.K. in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Brazil’s health regulator was tipped off that the four did not state that information on their immigration forms, and on Sunday said they confirmed the details given were “false.”
“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.
Nevertheless, no action was taken and the four players were allowed to travel with the Argentine team from the hotel to the stadium. Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero were in the starting lineup.
The confusion comes amid continuing anger in South America over rules that have disallowed several teams from using key players for this month’s three World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil are without nine key men for the Argentina game, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent.
They would have to quarantine on return, and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.
Aston Villa said Buendia and Martinez had agreed to return to their club after the Brazil game and will miss Argentina’s game against Bolivia on Tuesday. The Argentine Football Association, however, said they would play all three of their games during qualifying.
Brazil currently lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022, six points ahead of second-place Argentina. The top four qualify automatically for Qatar.
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