Brazil - Argentina covid-postponed World Cup qualifier slated for June in Melbourne
The CONCACAF qualifier was called off for health reasons but has been rearranged despite both sides having qualified for the 2022 World Cup
The suspended World Cup qualifying game between Brazil and Argentina has been rescheduled to be played in Australia on 11 June, a decision that still has to be ratified by FIFA but one that is likely to meet with resistance from both sides given the CONMEBOL qualification process has concluded and both Brazil and Argentina have qualified for the World Cup as Pot 1 seeds.
The original game last September was called off when Brazilian health officials entered the pitch to remove four Argentina players who had been in the United Kingdom during the 14 days prior to the match. Under Brazilian covid-19 protocols at the time, anyone entering the country from the UK had to quarantine for 14 days. Four Premier League players - Emiliano Buendía and Emiliano Martínez of Aston Villa, and Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Spurs – reportedly failed to declare on their immigration forms that they had been in the UK in the two weeks prior to the match, despite playing in the Premier League.
Argentina not keen on dead rubber qualifier
The match was duly suspended with the score at 0-0 and there is little appetite on the part of Argentina to now stage it again with the outcome being largely irrelevant beyond another notch for one side or the other in the historic rivalry between the countries. Furthermore, Argentina consider the game to have been completed and if anything that the points from the contest should be awarded to Lionel Scaloni’s side after the decision of the Brazilian health officials to call the game off. Even if that were to happen it would not alter the final positions in CONMEBOL qualifying, in which Brazil finished six points ahead of Argentina.
The Canarinha have been more open to the idea of staging the game, partly as a warm-up for the World Cup and also as a money-making opportunity. Although Europe was initially considered for the match – Argentina have a friendly against Italy in London on 1 June - Brazil suggested Oceania and the Melbourne Cricket Ground was selected.
Argentina await FIFA ruling
The Argentinean Football Association is hopeful that FIFA will decide the game, which remains an official encounter despite the strange circumstances surrounding a replay, should not go ahead after all. However, for much the same reason Brazil are happy enough to play, FIFA appear to have decided to cash in on the opportunity with tickets due to go on sale at 14:00 local time in Melbourne on Thursday.
It will not be the first time Brazil and Argentina have locked horns in Melbourne: in 10 July, 1988, they played out a goalless draw at the Olympic Park Stadium and in 2017 they met again at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with Argentina winning 1-0.