Argentina players face health inquiry

Health officials will visit the Argentina soccer team to investigate whether their English Premier League players broke COVID-19 quarantine regulations ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil.

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

The squad contains four players who came from England – Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero.

Under rules published by Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa, visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering Brazil must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

“We were notified by Anvisa and officials are going to the hotel where the players are staying to verify the correct procedure was followed,” an official with the Sao Paulo Health Secretary told Reuters.

Brazilian news site UOL said if the four players could not provide documents showing they were exempt from quarantine they could be prevented from playing in the game against Brazil.

The two rivals are scheduled to play at the Corinthians arena in their eighth of 18 World Cup qualifiers.

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

The top four qualify automatically for the World Cup.

There has been anger in South America after several teams were deprived of key players for this month’s triple header of qualifiers.

Brazil are without nine key men for the 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 to quarantine on return and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni criticised the decision earlier on Saturday and said it compromised the integrity of the World Cup.

“It is not equal and that’s very clear,” Scaloni said.

Meanwhile, Scaloni said Lionel Messi was set to face Brazil despite Luis Martinez’s horror tackle on the Argentina captain.

Venezuela’s Martinez was sent off for a crude lunge on the Paris St Germain star as Scaloni’s men maintained their unbeaten streak.