Premier League clubs set for quarantine row with Brazil and Argentina ahead of marathon World Cup qualifiers

Is there conflict on the way between Premier League clubs and South American national teams? It seems very likely.

With the coronavirus pandemic nowhere near under control in the Americas, the Concacaf region (North and Central America plus the Caribbean) recently admitted defeat and called off its World Cup qualifiers until next March.

The health situation is no less serious in South America. But after video meetings last Tuesday and Thursday, the continent decided to press ahead and start its own qualifiers in the October FIFA dates.

The rationale is clear. South America uses a marathon format, with all ten countries playing each other home and away. It needs a total of 18 dates. 

Four – double headers in March and September – have already been lost.  Lose any more and it may not be possible to squeeze the competition in before the 2022 World Cup.

And there is an easy argument against the idea of improvising a shorter format, splitting the teams into groups as used to be the case before 1996. 

With the exception of Uruguay, the countries have sold the TV rights to their home games – on the basis that there will be nine of them. And so the show must go on.

EUROPEAN-BASED PLAYERS

There was one obvious impediment. Most of the big name players are based in Europe.

If, on their return from international duty they are forced to undergo the normal quarantine period, then there is no way the clubs will release them. 

Imagine the scenario; a player goes off across the Atlantic on international duty in October, spends two weeks in quarantine – by which time he has to go back for the November FIFA dates, with more quarantine after that. 

Clubs would release their players at the start of October and hardly be able to use them again until December.

But FIFA president Gianni Infantino reported back to the South Americans that the problem had been solved. Quarantine restrictions will be waived, and clubs will be expected to release their players.

But will they? The clubs can certainly make an argument on health grounds.

THE PANDEMIC IN SOUTH AMERICA

South America’s Champions League, the Copa Libertadores returned last week, and supplied plenty of evidence that the pandemic is nowhere near over, and that, despite all the precautions being taken, there is still a considerable element of risk.

Boca Juniors of Argentina recently had over 20 players test positive for the coronavirus.

Coaches are testing positive, referees are testing positive – and in the last 24 hours defending champions Flamengo of Brazil have had seven players go down with the virus.

Premier League clubs will surely be concerned – especially those with Brazilian players.

According to the schedule, Brazil are at home to Bolivia on October 9th and away to Peru four days later – they are playing in two countries where the virus has hit especially hard.

The squad has been named, and contains Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino of Liverpool, Thiago Silva of Chelsea, Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa, Gabriel Jesus of Man City and Everton's Richarlison – as well as Alex Telles, who could be on the verge of joining Manchester United.

Argentina have named Villa's new signing Emiliano Martinez, as well as Nico Otamendi of City, Brighton's Alexis MacAllister and Giovani Lo Celso of Tottenham.

Paraguay have West Ham's Fabian Balbuena and Miguel Almiron of Newcastle.

Colombia have yet to announce their squad, but will surely include the Everton pair of Yerry Mina and James Rodriguez.

Will all their clubs be happy to release them for international duty?  Or, with just two weeks until release date, is a tug of war about to start?

 

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