Match officials told us they could play: CBF president

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Ednaldo Rodrigues, interim president of the Confederation of Brazilian Football (CBF), told TV Globo that before the game, match officials “told us that they could play, but then, for some unknown reason, they changed their minds.” 

Questions swirled on Monday after Brazilian health officials dramatically halted a World Cup qualifier against Argentina over alleged Covid-19 quarantine breaches by the visitors.

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As Argentina captain Lionel Messi and others questioned the timing of the controversial intervention, football’s world governing body FIFA said a probe was under way.

“We’ve been here for three days, why are you doing this just now?” Messi asked on Argentina’s TyC network.

Brazil coach Tite similarly questioned why the officials decided to act “mid-match” when “they had 72 hours before the game.”

Hours before the on-pitch drama, Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) said four England-based players in Argentina’s squad should be placed in “immediate quarantine” for breaching Covid-19 protocols.

According to ANVISA, the Premier League players — Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham, and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia — provided “false information” upon entering Brazil.

However, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni told reporters that “at no time were we told that they could not play the game.”

And Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia pushed back at claims the players had falsified entry records, insisting: “It is not possible to speak of any lie.”

The Argentina squad flew back to Buenos Aires overnight.

The controversy came after Premier League clubs refused to release nine Brazilians to play for their country in the World Cup qualifiers over coronavirus rules that would have required them to quarantine on their return to England.

It is unclear how the incident will affect qualifications for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL said the game had been “suspended” but gave no detail on whether the match would be played at another date.

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