South America World Cup qualifiers postponed due to COVID travel issues

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CONMEBOL have confirmed that the 2022 World Cup qualifiers have been postponed for March.

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The decision comes after star players from across South America were set to miss out on playing for their national teams, as their club managers in Europe were not going to release them for international duty.

Jurgen Klopp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Thomas Tuchel and many other managers at top European clubs have already said that the likes of Roberto Firmino, Edinson Cavani and other stars would not be able to travel.

Due to strict quarantine rules in England in particular, and concern over the Brazilian COVID-19 variant, players who traveled to South America would have had to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.

That means they would have missed key games both in the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

This decision means that marquee qualifiers such as Brazil v. Argentina, Argentina v. Uruguay and Colombia v. Brazil will not go ahead this month.

What did CONMBEOL say and what is next?

This decision from CONMEBOL is a sensible one, but it does suggest that all international games in March should perhaps be postponed, as European leagues are keen to finish their 2020-21 campaigns which have just over six weeks remaining.

Simply put: with international tournaments coming up this summer, the last thing that leagues want is players returning from this international break in March with a new variant or a surge in cases which could shut down the leagues just a few games before a very challenging season would be finished.

The governing body of South American soccer released the following statement after a meeting between CONMEBOL and FIFA failed to reach an agreement about how, and where, the games could be played.

“The CONMEBOL Council has decided to suspend the double date of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers scheduled for March. The decision is due to the impossibility of having all the South American players in a timely manner. FIFA will analyze the rescheduling of the date, in coordination with CONMEBOL and the member associations. Soon, the different options for holding the matches will be studied.”

It remains to be seen what the solution for this postponement will be, as an extra international date could be slotted in this summer around the Copa America. That would be far from ideal, but at least the risk of players having to miss a huge chunk of time with their club teams is no longer in play.

The soccer world has been very flexible to keep things going on an international basis throughout the last 12 months, and that will likely be the case for the next 12 months too.

Everyone would have loved to have seen Brazil v. Argentina, and other huge clashes, but this feels like the correct call and there are unlikely to be many complaints.