Two Brazil players made to return to Russian club, to miss World Cup qualifiers

Striker Malcom and midfielder Claudinho were obliged to return to Russia by their club Zenit St Petersburg, the Brazilian Football Confederation said.

FILE PHOTO: Claudinho (pic) and Malcom joined the squad in Rio at the weekend and although they trained normally, they will not travel to Chile for Brazil's World Cup qualifier.   -  REUTERS

The increasingly bitter battle between club and country took a new twist on Wednesday when two Brazilian players were obliged to abandon the national side and return to their club in Russia, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said.

Striker Malcom and midfielder Claudinho “received constant communications from their club, Zenit St Petersburg, obliging them to return to Russia", the CBF said in a statement.

Both uncapped players were called up after nine Brazilians based in the English Premier League (EPL) were told their clubs did not want them playing matches in a country on the UK’s red list because they would have to quarantine for 10 days on return from South America.

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The nine did not travel for Brazil’s qualifiers against Chile on September 2, Argentina on September 5 and Peru on September 9.

Claudinho and Malcom joined the squad in Rio at the weekend and although they trained normally, they will not travel to Chile.

“The CBF, backed by FIFA’s rules, talked to the players and explained to them that the sanctions their team threatened could not be applied," the CBF said. "Nevertheless…they decided to return."

The CBF has sent a formal complaint to FIFA and asked that it impose "all the applicable punishments against Zenit".

The controversy has hit several South American sides ahead of this week’s triple header of qualifiers for Qatar 2022.

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Four Argentines who play for Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur joined their national squad for games against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia.

Aston Villa said its players, Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez, would fly home before the third match in order to miss fewer Premier League games.

However, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni refuted the club’s statement.

“We gave the list for three games and the players are here to play all three,” he said on Wednesday.

Brazil tops South America's 10-team qualifying group with Argentina in second place. The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar.

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