Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni on Saturday called for “clear and inflexible” rules on the release of players for international duty, a day before his side take on a depleted Brazil in a key World Cup qualifier.
Brazil are without nine key men for the match in Sao Paulo, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They would have to quarantine on their return and the clubs do not want to lose their players for league games.
Their decision has caused widespread anger in South America, and Scaloni felt it compromised the integrity of the World Cup.
“We don’t have any idea of what it is going to be like for the next games and that can’t be,” he told reporters.
“Beyond who it affects – Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Colombia – it can’t go on like this. These games are being played because it was very tight and the decision was last minute but they need to take a decision for the next time.
“You can’t compete like this.
“If it continues like this then of course the competition is not equal, that’s very clear. And now that we have time before the next dates there has to be a clear and inflexible position.”
Argentina have four players from Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur in their squad for Sunday’s match after the clubs ceded to their wishes but there is confusion about their availability for the country’s next game against Bolivia on Thursday.
Villa said goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and winger Emiliano Buendia would return before the Bolivia match but the Argentine FA denied that there was any agreement to release them early.
Argentina are, however, likely to have Lionel Messi fit for the Brazil match after he took a knock against Venezuela in their 3-1 win on Thursday.
“Leo is good,” Scaloni said. “We’ll train this afternoon. We’ll know 100 per cent for sure this afternoon.”
Argentina beat Brazil in the final of the Copa America on July 10 in Rio de Janeiro and their win in Caracas extended their unbeaten run to 21 games.
But the home side have won all seven of their qualifiers so far and lead the 10-team South American qualifying group by six points from their opponents.
The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar in 2022 but Scaloni said catching Brazil was not a priority.
“Our task is to get the maximum number of points and qualify for the finals,” he said. “I don’t think it’s relevant what position we reach in the qualifying table but that we get there.”