Messi slams decision to halt Argentina-Brazil

Argentina captain Lionel Messi has said he was dismayed by the Brazilian health authorities’ decision to stop Sunday’s World Cup qualifier after the match had started.

Just five minutes after kickoff at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena, officials from the health authorities entered the pitch to announce the game could not continue because of a breach of the country’s quarantine protocols by four of Argentina’s Premier League based-players.

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“Listen to me, we’ve been here [in Brazil] for three days,” Messi said on the pitch, with his comments heard on television. “Were they waiting for the game to start to come here? Why didn’t they warn us before?”

Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, claimed that Argentina internationals Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Emiliano Buendia twice breached health protocols.

Lo Celso, Romero and Martinez were included in Argentina’s starting lineup. Under Brazilian rules, visitors from the UK entering the country must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

In a statement, Anvisa accused the players of providing “false” information on their health forms and considered their presence in Brazil “a serious health risk” and advised for the immediate quarantine of those players.

Brazil’s Football Confederation (CBF) was “absolutely surprised” by Sunday’s events and said in a statement that Avinsa could have acted “days earlier” and not after the game had started.

“The CBF reiterates its disappointment with the event and awaits the decision by CONMEBOL and FIFA with regards to the game,” a statement said.

Avinsa director Antonio Barra Torres claimed the players in question were notified prior to the game that they had to isolate and did not do so.

“They had to remain isolated in the hotel until they could return to their country, but instead they went to the stadium to play the game,” he said. “We informed the players that they had to comply with these regulations. They did not do so.”

Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia, whose squad returned to Buenos Aires in the early hours of Monday, said his players have followed all the health protocols set by CONMEBOL.

He said in a tweet on Sunday: “As AFA president, I am very sorry for the suspension of what was to be a party for South American football.

“We have always been guided by the current CONMEBOL health legislation. We await the resolution of FIFA’s Disciplinary Court.”

He added: “Four people interrupted the game for something that we do not understand.

“There is a health legislation through which all tournaments are played, in which the authorities of each country approve a protocol that is in force and signed by the 10 associations, and that we follow to the extreme. What happened is unfortunate for football, a very bad image for the world.”

CONMEBOL said in a statement it will be FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee to decide what happens next.

Brazil lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022, six points ahead of second-place Argentina. Brazil will next play when they host Peru on Thursday, while Argentina welcome Bolivia on Friday.