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Authorities halt Brazil-Argentina after EPL-based players break quarantine

Alexandre Schneider / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Brazilian health officials stormed onto the pitch to stop the country's World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Sao Paulo on Sunday because three Argentinians apparently broke COVID-19 regulations.

Anvisa, Brazil's health agency, said just hours before kickoff that Argentina's England-based players - goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, defender Cristian Romero, and midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Emiliano Buendia - lied to immigration officers about their recent travel history to avoid entering quarantine. Anvisa then instructed the players to quarantine immediately and return to their country of origin.

Despite the order, Martinez, Romero, and Lo Celso started Sunday's game at Corinthians Arena. Buendia wasn't included in the team.

Health officials halted play seven minutes into the clash. Argentina headed back to the dressing room, and CONMEBOL, which governs South American football, confirmed the match was suspended.

"Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?" Argentina captain Lionel Messi said, according to Reuters. "We've been here at the stadium for an hour. They could have told us."

Argentina landed in Brazil on Friday after winning its previous qualifier 3-1 in Venezuela.

"Anvisa considers this situation to be a serious health risk and therefore has guided local health authorities to impose immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from taking any activity and must be stopped from remaining in Brazilian territory," Anvisa said in a statement.

Aston Villa's Martinez and Buendia, along with Tottenham Hotspur's Lo Celso and Romero, joined Argentina's national team from the U.K.

However, Anvisa said the four players failed to disclose they'd been in the U.K. in the 14 days preceding their trip to Brazil.

Under Brazilian regulations, travelers from the U.K. must quarantine for 14 days.

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