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Lionel Messi’s Argentina to face Neymar’s Brazil again in FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier after Sao Paulo farce

Argentine officials said they believed the same protocols used in the Copa America in Brazil in June were in place for the World Cup qualifiers to allow teams to travel across the continent. 

Lionel Messi’s Argentina to face Neymar’s Brazil again in FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier after Sao Paulo farce Lionel Messi (left) and Neymar. (Source: Twitter)

The World Cup qualifier between Neymar’s Brazil and Lionel Messi’s Argentina in September 2021 that was suspended just minutes after kickoff when health officials ran onto the pitch must be replayed, world governing body FIFA said on Monday (February 14). The match at the NeoQuimica Arena in Sao Paulo was halted in farcical fashion after five minutes when Brazilian health officials invaded the pitch to stop Argentina`s England-based players, who they accused of breaching the country’s COVID-19 quarantine rules, from playing.

The officials claimed the Argentines had breached Brazilian rules stating travellers who had been in the UK, South Africa or India during the previous two weeks were forbidden from entering the country unless they were Brazilian citizens or had permanent residency. The officials claimed the players had misled border officials by declaring they had not been in a red list country during the 14 days before the game.

Argentine officials said they believed the same protocols used in the Copa America in Brazil in June were in place for the World Cup qualifiers to allow teams to travel across the continent. CONMEBOL confirmed that interpretation. “After a thorough investigation of the various factual elements and in light of the applicable regulations, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided that the match should be replayed on a date and at a location to be decided by FIFA,” it said in a statement.

“In addition, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has concluded that the abandonment of the match stemmed from several deficiencies of the parties involved.”

The four England-based players, Emiliano Buendia, Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, were each banned for two international matches by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for failing to comply with the world governing body’s COVID-19 protocols.

FIFA also fined the Brazilian and Argentine football associations 500,000 Swiss francs ($540,000) and 200,000 Swiss francs, respectively, for their failure to ensure ‘order and safety’. The Argentine Football Association said it would appeal the decision.

The FA said ‘the decision does not align with the facts’ and asked FIFA to provide their legal grounds for the decision so it can prepare the appeal. Both nations have already qualified unbeaten for Qatar, with Brazil top of the South American qualifying group, four points ahead of Argentina. Both teams have three games to play. The last scheduled round of qualifying games takes place in late March.

(with Reuters inputs)