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FIFA president Infantino: Suspended Brazil-Argentina WC qualifier should be decided on pitch

FOOTBALL By Xinhua | October 19th 2021
Neymar (L) of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina, teammates in PSG, react [photo courtesy]

The suspended 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina should be rescheduled for the good of South American football, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Monday.

The September 5 duel in Sao Paulo was halted shortly after kickoff when Brazilian health officials walked onto the pitch to object to the participation of four Argentina players for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols.

"It is always good to decide matches on the pitch and not off the pitch," Infantino told reporters in Buenos Aires on Monday. "It isn't always possible, we have rules. Let's see what FIFA's disciplinary bodies decide."

Brazil's federal police is investigating whether Premier League players Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Emiliano Buendia failed to comply with entry regulations for travelers from Britain.

Brazilian health agency Anvisa said the players should have been in quarantine because of a rule at the time that applied to foreigners arriving from Great Britain, South Africa, Northern Ireland and India.

"That cannot happen," said Infantino, who is currently in South America to discuss plans for a biennial World Cup. "It's unacceptable that a match is interrupted this way. It damages football."

Infantino also said that South America's 18-round World Cup qualifying format - in which teams play each other home and away on a double round-robin basis - will not change if the proposed calendar change is approved.

"We have understood, we heard that in South America it is important to play the 18 rounds, one home and one away. We can do it with a new calendar, and that could provide more opportunities and more thrill," he added.

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