Brazil’s match with Argentina descended into farce on Sunday evening before it was abandoned after health officials invaded the pitch to deport four Premier League players accused of misleading authorities over their flights from the UK. 

Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez as well as Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero had been told to isolate just two hours before their World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo. Argentina bosses ignored the warning, however, with Martínez, Romero and Lo Celso all starting the game. 

As a result, just 10 minutes into the match, an army of government officials in suits walked onto the pitch to tell the referee to stop the game. Lengthy deliberations then ensued between Argentina, Brazil, Conmebol – the South American Football Confederation – and health authorities before the match was eventually called off almost an hour later. 

Fifa told Telegraph Sport the decision to suspend the game was led by match officials. “Further details will follow in due course,” the governing body added. 

Authorities had earlier demanded the players should quarantine and leave the country immediately. The intervention from Anvisa, the Brazilian health governing body, is the latest twist in a saga that saw Brazil react angrily last week over a Premier League pact to stop players travelling to countries on the UK Government’s red list due to the subsequent impact on quarantining. 

Spurs and Villa inexplicably broke the agreement by releasing the four Argentine players, but Brazil had been deprived of star names due to Liverpool and Manchester City keeping their South American talent in the UK. 

The Argentinians had flown into Brazil on Friday, the day after beating Venezuela 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Caracas. However, Anvisa left it until three hours before kick off in Sao Paulo to issue a statement saying the four players should have quarantined on arrival in Brazil because the UK is on its own red list. 

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“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.

After health officials in suits walked on to the pitch at around 8.08pm, the Argentina players were led back towards the changing rooms, while Brazilian players were seen in extensive discussions with the referee and men in suits on the sidelines. 

Eventually, as the Argentina squad was led away from the stadium, the Brazil players had a training session on the pitch, which was still screened live on national TV channels. 

In the aftermath, Conmebol have said the referee and match delegate will now submit a report to Fifa’s disciplinary committee. A decision on whether the game could be resumed is pending. 

If Argentina’s players are found to have breached health protocols, Fifa has to award the forfeit victory to Brazil. 

The scenes come a week after the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City held firm over their refusal to release players for World Cup qualifiers in countries deemed high risk. 

That provoked fury in Brazil, who are without Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Ederson, Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Fred (Manchester United), Richarlison (Everton) and Raphinha (Leeds).

Brazil, however, deems the UK just as risky a destination over its high Covid-19 rates. Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival. 

Anvisa said it was tipped off that the four players did not state that information on their immigration forms and on Sunday said they confirmed the details given were “false”. 

In Anvisa’s earlier statement, the agency said the players had supplied “false information in an official form of the Brazilian sanitary authority”. 

“After a meeting with the health authorities, it was confirmed, after consulting the passports of the four players involved, that the athletes failed to comply with the rule for the entry of travellers on Brazilian soil, provided for in Interministerial Ordinance No. 655, of 2021, which provides that foreign travellers who have passed through the United Kingdom, South Africa, Northern Ireland and India in the last 14 days, are prevented from entering Brazil. 

“The players in question declared that they have not passed through any of the four countries with restrictions in the last 14 days. 

“The travellers arrived in Brazil by flight from Caracas/Venezuela to Guarulhos. However, unofficial news reached Anvisa reporting alleged false statements made by such travellers… Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk, and therefore advised the local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of players, who are prevented from participating in any activity and must be prevented from remaining in Brazilian territory, pursuant to art. 11, of Federal Law No. 6437/77.” 

The four England-based players are already facing quarantine and extra testing when they return to the UK.

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