Brazil vs Argentina, CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup Qualifier: Match abandoned for failure to follow COVID-19 regulations

BRA vs ARG, World Cup Qualifying Updates: Presenting the live score, commentary and highlights from the FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina at Arena Corinthians.

Lionel Messi and Neymar

Lionel Messi of Argentina and Brazil's Neymar after interruption of play.   -  REUTERS

Welcome to the highlights of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifying match Brazil vs Argentina.

This was Santadeep Dey, bringing you all the action as it unfolded at the Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo.

HIGHLIGHTS

IT'S OFFICIAL! The match has been abandoned due to a failure to adhere to public health regulations by Argentina's four Premier League-based players. Well... no surprises there.

- Claudio Tapia, AFA president: “What happened today is a very bad image. Four people entered to interrupt the game and CONMEBOL asked the players to go back to the dressing room. You cannot talk about any lie here because there is health legislation under which all South American tournaments are played. The health authorities of each country approved a protocol that we have been fully complying with.”

- CONMEBOL statement: "By decision of the match referee, the match organized by FIFA between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup Qualifiers is suspended. The referee and the match commissioner will submit a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to be followed. These procedures strictly adhere to current regulations. The World Cup Qualifiers is a FIFA competition. All decisions concerning its organization and development are the exclusive power of that institution."

- Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni: “It makes me very sad. I’m not looking for any culprits. Whether or not something happened, it was not the time to make that intervention. It should have been a party for everyone, to enjoy the best players in the world. I would like the people of Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to defend my players. At no time were we notified that they could not play the match. We wanted to play the game, the players from Brazil too.”

- REPORTS: Argentina is set to to leave the premises and head to the airport on a bus. Brazil to have a free training session. No news yet of the match getting abandoned.

- The Brazil subs have taken their training bibs off. A five-a-side entertainer for the crowd, maybe?

- The Brazilian squad are in a huddle now. May just be a definitive statement on what's happening.

- A coach is being arranged by the traffic authorities in Sao Paulo to escort the Argentine players away from the stadium. Not much hope remains of a restart now.

The Brazilian footballers, meanwhile, are still waiting on the touchline in full gear.

- 35 minutes and counting... Play has been "suspended" as per the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Not abandoned, at least for now.

- It has been more than 25 minutes since the match was suspended. So even if there's a restart, the players will need to warmup again.

- Messi and Alves are back in the tunnel. Are we headed towards a resolution?

- Messi to a Brazilian health official: "We’ve been here for three days. Why are you doing this just now?"

- According to Brazilian radio commentary, the authorities had tried to negotiate with Argentina officials earlier today but they had refused. They had apparently locked themselves in the dressing room before coming onto the pitch.

Why was the kickoff allowed to happen, again?

- Messi has changed into a bib now. The Argentine superstar accompanies Dani Alves back in the middle.

- Neymar's trying to have a word with the officials now. Would that do any good? The federal police is getting involved as well now.

- CONFIRMATION: Those ARE Brazilian health officials. And it seems like the four EPL players maybe deported (YES, DEPORTED!) for flouting the host nation's COVID-19 norms.

- The Argentina players are being asked to return into the dressing room.

Lionel Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi walks off the field after the qualifying match for Qatar 2022 against Brazil was interrupted by health officials in Sao Paulo.   -  AP

 

- It is being speculated that some of them are Brazilian health officials.

6' Meanwhile, on the touchline, a journalist has been asked to leave as the game has come to a grinding halt.

There is a lot of chatter being caught on the microphone even as some of the Argentine players get involved in the melee.

3' Romero being spoken to too as a dangerous-looking challenge on Eder Miltao sees the latter go down in a heap. Neymar is livid as the referee doesn't make an entry into his notebook.

2' An early foul followed by a warning for Gerson as Lo Celso gets brought down.

1' Kickoff: Messi and Casemiro, the captains, meet in the middle for the coin toss. Brazil wins, to play from right to left. Let's play!

- 12:30 AM IST: Time for the national anthems, ladies and gentlemen, followed by the team photographs. Argentina is up first.

- 12:29 AM IST: Messi hugs his PSG teammate Neymar before leading his side out onto the pitch.

- 12:25 AM IST: Danilo, Neymar and Gabi are engaged in a serious conversation as Brazil lines up just inside the tunnel.

PLAYING XI

Tite has introduced three changes into the side which had beaten Chile on Friday.

Lucas Verissimo replaces Marquinhos in defence, while Bruno Guimaraes steps aside for Gerson. Real Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. drops to the bench as Everton Ribeiro takes his place.

The host's Premier League players have abided by the rules, and thus, Ederson and Jesus haven't made it as well.

Brazil: Weverton; Alex Sandro, L. Verissimo, Eder Militao, Danilo; Casemiro, Gerson, Everton Ribeiro, Lucas Paqueta; Gabi, Neymar Jr.

Subs: Santos, Everson, Dani Alves, Miranda, Leo Ortiz, G. Arana, Edenilson, B. Guimaraes, Vini Jr., Matheus Cunha, Artur, Hulk

Argentina, on paper, looks to be quite the unit! Lionel Scaloni has only made two changes from the previous game against Venezuela. Leandro Paredes comes in for Guido Rodriguez and German Pezzella makes way for Cristian Romero.

Meanwhile, three of Argentina's four EPL players are set to start!

Argentina: Emiliano Martinez; Marcus Acuna, Nicolas Otamendi, Cristian Romero, Gonzalo Montiel; Di Maria, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, Lo Celso; Lauturo Martinez, Lionel Messi

Subs: Geronimo Rulli, Juan Foyth, Nicolas Taglifico, German Pezella, Angel Correa, Juan Musso, Ezequiel Palacios, Nicolas Gonzalez, Joaquin Correa, Alejandro Gomez, Guido Rodriguez, Paulo Dybala

- Meanwhile, Guinea's World Cup qualifier against Morocco has just been postponed. Find out why.

- BREAKING NEWS: Brazil's health regulator Anvisa has sought the immediate isolation of four Argentine footballers. It said the players should have quarantined on arrival because they had spent time in the United Kingdom over the previous 14 days.

Although it did not name the four, players with English Premier league clubs are Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa and Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham.

"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," a statement read.

The Argentine squad flew into Brazil on Friday, the day after beating Venezuela 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Caracas.

Under Brazilian rules, a visitor who has been in the UK for 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Anvisa was tipped off the four players did not state that information on their immigration forms and on Sunday said it confirmed the details given were "false". The confusion came just hours before the two arch rivals were scheduled to face off.

Spokespeople for both the Argentine team and CONMEBOL - the South American Football Confederation - did not respond to requests for comment.

However, Argentine TV channel Todo Noticias said the four travelled on the team bus to the stadium ahead of kickoff.

(Source: Reuters)

MATCH PREVIEW

When Brazil hosts Argentina in Sunday's World Cup qualifier, it may not be fair to call it a rematch of the Copa America final from less than two months ago.

Brazil is missing nine England-based players who did not travel because of Britain's coronavirus restrictions. Meanwhile, Argentina star Lionel Messi is a slight doubt after being subjected to a harsh tackle by Venezuela's Adrian Martinez on Thursday, which led to a red card.

If Messi can play, as expected, Argentina will have a good chance of strengthening its status as the best team in South America after beating Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final in July in Rio de Janeiro. Especially since it was able to bring four Premier League players: Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia and Tottenham's Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero.

Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr

Argentina star Lionel Messi is a doubtful starter for the World Cup qualifying match against Brazil. Meanwhile, Neymar's form will be a concern for Tite's men.   -  AFP

 

“What matters the most is not to rest on past achievements and march on,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said after the 3-1 win in Venezuela.

“It will be a different match against Brazil... everyone is available, and whoever is at their best will play.”

Brazil leads the South American qualifying group with a perfect 21 points after seven games, while Argentina is second on 15.

Team news

But Brazil coach Tite is missing a big part of the team that started the Copa America final, including the suspended Marquinhos and England-based Thiago Silva, Fred and Richarlison.

Tite used four forwards in Thursday's 1-0 win at Chile. But he is unlikely to repeat that formation against Argentina, not only because he's facing a more dangerous opponent but also because it didn't work very well.

The winning goal came from substitute Everton Ribeiro in the 64th minute, with star forward Neymar having a sub-par game.

The uncertainty surrounding Brazil's team is such that midfielder Gerson, who hadn't even been called up by Tite for more than a year, hopes to start against Argentina.

“If it is meant to be, I am ready,” said Gerson, who played in the second half of Brazil's win in Chile.

Also Sunday, third-place Ecuador hosts Chile and Uruguay takes on Bolivia. Colombia will travel to Paraguay, while Peru plays Venezuela.

The first four teams will automatically qualify for the tournament in Qatar next year. The fifth-place team will take part in a playoff against a team from a different confederation.

- Associated Press

PREDICTED XI

Brazil: Weverton; Danilo, Militao, Marquinhos, Sandro; Ribeiro, Casemiro, Guimaraes, Vinicius; Barbosa, Neymar

Argentina: E Martinez; Molina, Pezzella, Otamendi, Acuna; De Paul, Rodriguez, Lo Celso; Di Maria, Messi, L Martinez

HEAD-TO-HEAD NUMBERS

In the last ten meetings, Brazil has won five times while Argentina has emerged victorious on four occasions. They shared the honours in one of the fixtures.

The sides last clashed in the Copa America 2021 final when Argentina won the game 1-0.

FORM GUIDE

Brazil: D-W-W-L-W

Argentina: W-W-W-W-W

WHERE TO WATCH FIFA WC 2022 QUALIFIERS LIVE IN INDIA?

The South American FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers will not be officially telecast or live streamed in India.