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Brazil-Argentina qualifier suspended due to deportation dispute involving Premier League stars

Lionel Messi and Neymar were involved as health authorities stopped the match

Bengaluru, September 6: Brazil's World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Sao Paulo was halted on Sunday after the visiting side named three Premier League players in their starting XI, an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations.

The Selecao had called up nine internationals from the English top flight for their latest fixtures, but none of the group travelled to Brazil.

Argentina were able to include four Premier League stars, however, in Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Emiliano Buendia.

Martinez and Lo Celso both played in the side's 3-1 win against Venezuela earlier this week, but issues arose as they headed to Brazil.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, restricting the entry of those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Martinez, Romero, Lo Celso and Buendia – the first three were involved against Brazil – all fall under that category.

Anvisa, Brazil's health authority, said in a widely released statement shortly before Sunday's game: "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."

When the match began with the relevant Argentina players still included, health officials walked onto the pitch.

A melee broke out and the action was halted, with the entire Argentina team soon leaving the field.

Conversations continued, with the Brazil XI remaining on the pitch, while Argentina's Lionel Messi reappeared to speak with officials and his opponents.

There were few immediate updates from official sources, with both Brazil and Argentina reporting only that the game had been halted. The visiting side posted a further message to say it had been "suspended".

Brazil were without nine key men for 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 had to quarantine when they returned to Europe and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.

Brazil lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022 World Cup, six points ahead of second-placed Argentina.

The top four qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held from November 21 to December 18 in Qatar.

(With OPTA inputs)

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Story first published: Monday, September 6, 2021, 1:20 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 6, 2021