South American World Cup qualifiers in doubt for March – Sports Illustrated

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South American World Cup qualifiers in doubt for March – Sports Illustrated

The upcoming CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers at the end of March are in doubt as several clubs, including Liverpool and Manchester United, declined to release South American players for international duty.

Last month, FIFA extended its pandemic ruling that frees clubs from their obligation to release players for FIFA-sanctioned international breaks if players face mandatory quarantines of at least five days or if border restrictions do not exempt professional athletes from government travel bans. 

The United Kingdom has flagged all 10 South American countries on its red-list travel ban that requires players coming from South America to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine upon their return the U.K. Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino would be among the many players potentially affected by a mandatory quarantine.

“I think that FIFA was kind of clear, saying we don’t have to let the players go this time and I think all the clubs agree that we cannot just let the boys go and solve the situation when they come back, with our players having a 10-day quarantine in a hotel or whatever,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp told reporters on Wednesday

According to Enganche soccer journalist Javier Lanza, FIFA is expected to ask CONMEBOL, the South American confederation in charge of World Cup qualifying, to postpone the March qualifiers. But with the Copa America scheduled for this upcoming summer and 14 rounds of World Cup qualifying left to play by March, time is running out. 

“It is difficult to postpone the FIFA dates. There is no space, you cannot tighten the qualifiers,” Ecuador FA president Francisco Egas told Radio La Red. “There is strong pressure from European clubs not to give up their players for the qualifiers. FIFA must be in the middle to help get an understanding.”

CONMEBOL leadership will reportedly meet Friday to attempt to find a solution while working with FIFA and reportedly is not considering moving its qualifiers to Europe.

“FIFA hasn’t made any specific request at this stage. Further information will be provided in due course,” the governing body said in a statement.

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