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Brazil vs Argentina suspended; COVID flap over Premier League quartet

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola look ahead to what big moves could be coming next, from Kylian Mbappe to Erling Haaland.

Brazil vs Argentina, the showpiece of this international break and perhaps all of World Cup qualifying until the playoffs, has been suspended in a shocking turn of affairs.

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa demanded that Argentina’s Premier League quartet of Emi Buendia, Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, and Cristian Romero be in isolation after spending part of the last 14 days in the United Kingdom.

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Brazil’s national team has been hampered by clubs not releasing their players for the international break, with Thiago Silva, Fabinho, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Ederson, Allison Becker, Fred, and Raphinha all missing from action.

There are questions as to whether Argentina broke Brazilian health protocols in the run-up to the game as we await comment from FIFA. CONMEBOL has said decisions related to World Cup qualifiers lie in the hands of the world’s governing body.

Still, it’s difficult to read Anvisa’s move as anything other than cynical -- interfering in World Cup qualifying, no less -- as Argentina’s players have been in Brazil for three days and the officials had ample time to intervene at the team headquarters, on the bus to the match, or upon entry to the facility.

Yet reports are speculating that Lo Celso, Romero, Martinez, and Buendia may have been taken into isolation. Remember: both teams have played matches this international break.

From Paul Gilmour at Sky Sports:

“We can confirm the game has been suspended (confirmed by both associations)

“Local reports suggest Brazilian health authorities want to deport the Premier League players (Lo Celso, Romero, Martinez and Buendia).

“Brazil entry requirements state anyone who has been in the UK in last 14 days must quarantine.”

What makes the surprising halt to the game downright stunning is that the match began at all. Argentina players walked off the field at 11 minutes after officials approached the field after seven minutes.

The Brazil team stayed on the pitch for nearly 40 minutes even as Lionel Messi returned from the Argentina dressing room in a bid to discuss affairs with Casemiro, Neymar, and officials.

Oh, to be FIFA president Gianni Infantino right now. Farcical.

An already congested World Cup qualifying schedule will be thrown into chaos here, as the two best teams in CONMEBOL qualifying so far could be a match behind the field or be playing on less rest for their third match of this break if the match picks up Sunday.

This, in the small picture, would be hugely beneficial to Brazil if it can reschedule this game when European clubs may be comfortable releasing their stars. Also, in all pictures, it’s embarrassing for CONMEBOL and FIFA (not to mention detrimental to those of us ready to make Brazil vs Argentina (and Neymar vs Messi) an incredible appetizer for USMNT vs Canada).

Follow @NicholasMendola