Venezuela calls 15 new players to Copa America after 8 get virus

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SAO PAULO — Venezuela summoned 15 new players for its Copa America squad on Saturday after eight tested positive for COVID-19 a day before it faces host Brazil.

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Another three members of the coaching staff were also infected.

The Venezuelan Football Association said in a statement the 15 “are ready to join our group in Brazil later today.”

None of the infected were named.

Brazil health minister Marcelo Queiroga said Venezuelan players who have the virus will return only after they test negative. He said there’s no reason for the Brazil match not to take place on Sunday.

“There will be no going and coming of players. Players who tested positive will quarantine,” Queiroga said. “If we had no possibility of positive cases we wouldn’t need rigorous protocols. Venezuela is lucky that they will bring other athletes.”

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The new players were goalkeepers Yhonatann Yustiz, Giancarlo Schiavone and Luis Romero; defenders Eduardo Ferreira, Diego Osorio and Francisco La Mantía; midfielders Leonardo Flores, Christian Rivas, Christian Larotonda and Abraham Bahachille; and forwards Richard Figueroa, Daniel Pérez, Eric Ramírez, Robinson Flores and Jan Hurtado.

Venezuela was allowed to make vast squad changes because CONMEBOL changed the limit of five substitutions due to COVID-19 in the final list sent by teams.

Earlier, the health secretariat of Brazil’s Federal District, which includes Brasilia, said 12 infected Venezuelans were isolated in a hotel.

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“They are all asymptomatic, isolated in single rooms and are being monitored by the team of CONMEBOL” and local specialists, the statement said.

Venezuela arrived in Brazil early Friday. One day earlier, two players tested positive for COVID-19, Wilker Ángel and Rolf Feltscher. They did not come to Brazil, the emergency host of the tournament after Colombia and Argentina were pulled.

Brazil has the second-most recorded deaths from the coronavirus in the world, more than 480,000. President Jair Bolsonaro, a critic of social distancing policies, is the main advocate for the Copa America, though it will not be attended by spectators.