Messi slams health officials' decision to halt Argentina's match in Brazil
Lionel Messi was angered after Brazilian health authorities interrupted Argentina's World Cup qualifying meeting with Brazil on Sunday due to four Premier League-based players apparently breaching COVID-19 rules.
Anvisa, Brazil's health agency, said hours before the game that Tottenham Hotspur's Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero and Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, all of whom play for Argentina, lied to immigration officers about their travel history so they could avoid quarantine.
Lo Celso, Romero, and Martinez were then named in Argentina's starting lineup in Sao Paulo despite an order for them to quarantine and return to their country of origin. Buendia wasn't in the matchday squad.
"Listen to me, we've been here (in Brazil) for three days," Messi was overhead saying after health officials walked onto the pitch seven minutes into the match, ESPN's Adriana Garcia reports. "Were they waiting for the game to start to come here? Why didn't they warn us before?"
The World Cup qualifier was suspended after the health officials intervened.
The Brazilian Football Confederation said it was "absolutely surprised" by how the authorities dealt with an issue that could have been addressed "days earlier," according to Garcia's translation.
"The CBF reiterates its disappointment with the event and awaits the decision by CONMEBOL and FIFA with regards to the game," the statement continued.
Avinsa director Antonio Barra Torres has insisted the four players were told to insolate before the match, but they chose to ignore those instructions.
"They had to remain isolated in the hotel until they could return to their country, but instead they went to the stadium to play the game," he said, according to ESPN. "We informed the players that they had to comply with these regulations. They did not do so."
FIFA released its own statement Monday morning, saying, "The first match official reports have been sent to FIFA. This information will be analyzed by the competent disciplinary bodies and a decision will be taken in due course."