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Brazil and Argentina's latest clash was called off because some of Argentina's players lied during COVID screening tests. Photo: Getty Images.
Brazil and Argentina's latest clash was called off because some of Argentina's players lied during COVID screening tests. Photo: Getty Images.

Brazil v. Argentina was suspended over COVID protocol violation

The National Health Surveillance Agency forced the match to stop by jumping onto the field.

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The latest World Cup qualifier clash between Brazil and Argentina became historic for reasons off the field of play. It was not because of the prowess of its players, but because of a health scandal. After kickoff, Brazilian inspectors from the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) forced the game to stop.

Four Argentine players, who play in the Premier League, reportedly lied when entering Brazil, denying they came from the United Kingdom and thus, skipping the quarantine the country requires upon entry for certain travelers. The violating players are Cuti Romero and Giovanni Lo Celso from Tottenham, and Emiliano Martínez and Emiliano Buendía from Aston Villa.

The stoppage came six minutes after its start, and Argentina decided to withdraw its team to the locker room. The Brazilian team stayed on the field and major confusion followed as players were stunned at the development. The match was a qualifying clash for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Anvisa explained in a press release the morning before the game that the four players had not followed the rules, falsifying their statements of entry into Brazil. It also assured the players had not been in the United Kingdom in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the country, a falsity according to the Brazilian agency. The athletes had played with their teams in London the week before.

In its release, Anvisa also explained that it met with representatives of CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation and the Brazilian and Argentine teams to inform them of the violation of protocol by the players. It also warned that they were going to be expelled from the country. Since regulations were ignored, it also mobilized the police, who arrived at the hotel to find the players had already left for the field.

The Superclásico de las Américas, a match followed by half the world, lasted only those six minutes. Anvisa's director insisted it had warned the Argentine team that the four players could not leave the hotel, only for them to appear on the field. The intervention did not seek to suspend the match, but Argentina made the decision unilaterally.

The president of the Argentine Football Association denies that his players lied and complained that the officials who interrupted the game did so by entering the field without a mask. But the truth is, despite Anvisa's warnings, the referee started the only match that has been suspended like this in Brazil since the start of the pandemic.

The players had traveled from Caracas, where Argentina had been victorious 1-3 against Venezuela.

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