Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier suspended after health officials intervene

A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was suspended after Brazilian health officials objected to the participation of four 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, prompting players from Argentina to walk 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,” a statement issued by CONMEBOL read.

In a subsequent statement, FIFA said it “confirm that following a decision by the match officials, the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match Brazil vs. Argentina has been suspended. Further details will follow in due course.”

Following the match, Brazilian health authority Anvisa released a statement in which they declared the situation was “a serious health risk” and “for this reason, local health authorities ordered to immediately quarantine the players.”

“After a meeting with the health authorities it was decided that, after checking the passports of the four players involved, the players did not comply with the rules of entry into Brazilian soil,” the statement read. “Travellers who have been in the UK, South Africa, Northern Ireland and India are not allowed in Brazil.

“The players in question declared not to have passed through any of the countries with restrictions in the past 14 days. They arrived in Brazil via a flight from Caracas in Venezuela, destined for Garulhos.

“However, unofficial news reached Anvisa reporting allegedly false statements made by the travellers.”

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.”

Brazilian Football Confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said he was “indignant” with the scenes that reverberated around the football world.

He criticised Brazilian health regulator Anvisa and said officials told him the Argentine players who breached the country’s COVID-19 rules could have been deported after the game.

“I feel sorry for all the sports fans who wanted to watch the game on television,” he told Brazil’s Sportv. “With all due respect to Anvisa, they could have resolved this earlier and not waited for the game to start.”

Argentina’s FA expressed its “discomfort” over the situation, adding that “football should not have to go through these type of incidents that go against the sporting spirit of such an important competition.”

A shellshocked Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni agreed.

“It makes me so sad, I am not looking for guilty parties, whaever happened or didn’t happen, this wasn’t the time to do it,” he told Argentine broadcaster TyC Sports.