Category Archives: News

Smith: Villa in no-win situation over Argentina duo

Dean Smith said Aston Villa were left in an impossible situation over Emi Martinez and Emi Buendia’s international release.

The duo are currently training in Croatia after returning from South America following the farcical scenes which saw Argentina’s game against Brazil suspended on Sunday.

The World Cup qualifier was called off after Brazilian health officials objected to the participation of Martinez and Tottenham’s Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero.

The visitors walked off the pitch at the Corinthians Arena after the officials came out to stop the game, believing the trio broke Covid quarantine rules, while Buendia did not make the squad.

Martinez and Buendia are out of Saturday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea and Smith felt there was no easy solution.

Aston Villa pair Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia were called up for Argentina's September qualifiers
Aston Villa pair Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia are training in Croatia

“It was a no-win situation all round. Each club had to come up with the best solution for themselves,” he said.

“Legally I don’t think we had any right to ban our players. It’s a World Cup, they have a right to choose whether they want to go and play for their countries or not.

“I didn’t want them to travel but when I saw the passion they had we had to come up with a compromise for all parties.

“We all had a predicament – players, club teams, national teams – on do we allow them to go across and play for their countries and potentially miss two or three games?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

South American football expert Tim Vickery says Argentina’s traveling party knew there was an issue regarding the travel history of their four Premier League players the day before they were due to play Brazil in a World Cup qualifier

“We were all in a rock and a hard place. Once our players made it clear they had spoken to other players in Argentina and wanted to play we had to come to a compromise.

“We managed to find that, they played the one game and they are quarantining now and back ready to play against Everton next week.

“They are in Croatia, we spoke with the relevant authorities and government officials to make sure it was the right thing to do. They are training over there.”

Saturday 11th September 5:00pm

Kick off 5:30pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD
Sky Sports Premier League HD

While the pair are out of the trip to Stamford Bridge, Ollie Watkins (knee), Leon Bailey (hamstring), John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey (Covid isolation) are available.

Bertrand Traore is back in training after a hamstring injury but Trezeguet (knee) remains a long-term absentee.

“We have a very exciting squad to choose from. It will give us different options this season,” Smith added.

“We feel we have recruited really well. It’s not helped Bertrand had an operation, we had a couple of Covid cases and Ollie got injured in pre-season but with the players coming back now it makes us stronger.

“We believe we can challenge the best teams in the league and it’s an opportunity to go and show that.”

Messi nets hat-trick to break Pele record

Lionel Messi broke Pele’s record for most international goals by a South American footballer with a hat-trick in Argentina’s World Cup qualifying win over Bolivia on Thursday night.

Messi scored all his country’s goals in the 3-0 defeat of Bolivia in Buenos Aires, giving him 79 for Argentina and taking him past Pele’s haul for Brazil of 77.

In front of 20,000 fans at the Monumental Stadium, Messi matched Pele when he opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a shot from outside the box.

He broke the record by dribbling past a defender for his second in the 64th minute, and added his third from a rebound two minutes from the end.

The 34-year-old celebrated after the match with the Copa America trophy, having led Argentina to his first major title with his country in July with a victory over Brazil in the final.

All-time highs

It’s the modern-era question that divides opinion: is Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo the greatest player on the planet?

The pair have been smashing records for fun throughout their careers, so there is a striking correlation that both superstars made blockbuster moves and set international records in almost perfect tandem over the past month.

Ronaldo overtook Ali Daei to become the world’s top all-time international scorer on 111 goals after netting twice in World Cup qualifying against the Republic of Ireland at the turn of this month.


Eight days later, Messi has become South America’s all-time top scorer and moves into joint-fifth spot on the world list with Godfrey Chitalu of Zambia.

But Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar is clipping at his heels with 69 goals for Brazil.


The graphic below breaks down his international haul and emphasises the Argentine’s knack of producing jaw-dropping goals from range, with 18 scored from outside the box – while all but seven goals have come from his favoured left boot.

FIFA opens disciplinary proceedings after Brazil-Argentina suspension

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings involving both the Brazilian and Argentinian football associations following the suspension of Sunday’s World Cup Qualifier at the Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo.

The match was called off amid extraordinary scenes as officials, believed to be from Brazil’s health authority, stormed on to the pitch shortly after kick-off over an alleged coronavirus breach by the visitors’ England-based players.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino described the situation as “crazy” on Monday, and the world governing body’s disciplinary committee will now investigate the circumstances which led to the suspension.

“Following the analysis of the official match reports related to the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina, FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened involving both member associations,” a statement from FIFA read.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

South American football expert Tim Vickery says Argentina’s traveling party knew there was an issue regarding the travel history of their four Premier League players the day before they were due to play Brazil in a World Cup qualifier

“The two teams were asked to provide further information on the facts which led to the suspension of the match, which will be gathered and then thoroughly reviewed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee. Updates will follow in due course.”

Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero are set to be fined after they joined up with Lionel Scaloni’s squad in South America for Argentina’s triple-header against Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia without the club’s permission.

Aston Villa’s Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez both followed an agreement set out by their club over the international break and there is no suggestion the pair will be disciplined for their actions.

The quartet, who were accused of not abiding by strict coronavirus protocols upon their entry to Brazil, will be absent from Argentina’s third game against Bolivia in the early hours of Friday morning UK time and have flown to Croatia to continue training before they rejoin their English clubs.

Tottenham's Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, right, react after Pacos de Ferreira score the opening goal
Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso will be disciplined upon their return to the club

Anvisa, Brazil’s health regulator, said health protocols make clear that travellers who have been in the UK, South Africa or India during the previous 14 days are forbidden from entering the country unless they are Brazilian citizens or have permanent residency.

It said Argentinian players had made false statements about their previous whereabouts on immigration forms.

Brazil’s Federal Police said on Monday they had opened a formal inquiry into the actions of the four Argentinian players.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) expressed its “deep discomfort” at the suspension of the match and insisted its players abided by all health regulations, and Brazil’s FA said it “deeply regrets” Sunday’s events.

Lo Celso, Romero set to be fined after defying Spurs orders

Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero are set to be fined by the club after joining up with the Argentina national squad without permission.

Sky Sports News has learned that Lo Celso and Romero will be disciplined for making the trip to South America for games against Venezuela and Brazil against the club’s wishes, with both players expected to receive hefty fines.

Lo Celso and Romero are planning on flying to Croatia, along with Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, following the controversial suspension of Argentina’s World Cup qualifier in Brazil to avoid having to quarantine. The four Argentine Premier League-based players were accused of not following strict Covid protocols upon entering Brazil.

Crucially, Buendia and Martinez have both followed the agreement set out with Villa before they left for the international break, and there is no suggestion they have done anything wrong, but the same cannot be said for the Tottenham duo.

The four players will miss Argentina’s third game against Bolivia in the early hours of Friday morning UK time.

Sky Sports News has been told Martinez and Buendia will fly to Croatia along with Lo Celso and Romero, rather than the UK, so they can continue training before returning to England for their club.

Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez
Aston Villa pair Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez were called up for Argentina’s September qualifiers

A trip straight back to the UK from South America would have meant 10 days in government hotel quarantine but stopping off for that period in a green list country means they can train and then travel back to the UK without quarantine.

If it goes as the players wish, each of them will only miss one Premier League match before being available for selection again.

That would mean Martinez and Buendia would miss Villa’s trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, while Lo Celso and Romero would both miss Spurs’ visit to Crystal Palace.

It is understood that the flight and accommodation to Croatia is being organised by the players and their representatives directly, rather than with the involvement of their clubs.

Tottenham are in a difficult position because Romero only joined the club a month ago for a fee of £42m from Atalanta.

While it’s thought Spurs officials do not want to damage the new relationship, they nevertheless feel they need to enforce a strong message concerning discipline.

There are further international matches involving Argentina in October and November, and Villa and Spurs are both determined to avoid such difficulties on those occasions.

FIFA look into Brazil-Argentina suspension

FIFA have confirmed they will analyse match reports after Brazilian health officials entered the pitch in a row over Covid rules, resulting in the suspension of the World Cup qualifier.

How Brazil vs Argentina abandonment unfolded

– 6pm: Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa seeks the immediate isolation of four Argentina players just hours before they are due to face Brazil in a World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo.

– 8pm: Brazil vs Argentina kicks-off as planned.

– 8:06pm: Play is halted as health officials walk onto the pitch to seemingly try and remove Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa and Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham from the pitch.

– 8:11pm: The game is suspended as Argentina players head back to the dressing room.

– 8:18pm: Lionel Messi appears to try and negotiate with the authorities but his team-mates remain in the dressing room.

– 8.40pm: Reports suggest a bus is en route to escort the Argentina team away from the stadium.

– 8:50pm: The game is abandoned.

Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Although Anvisa did not name the four, the players with Premier League clubs are Buendia and Martinez, as well as Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham.

Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero were named in Argentina’s starting line-up, while Buendia did not make the squad.

The officials marched onto the field shortly after kick-off and confronted the Argentina players, who left the field while the two managers – along with Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazil’s players – gathered to discuss the stoppage.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

South American reporter Tim Vickery outlines the timeline of events as Brazil’s match against Argentina was suspended due to four Argentine Premier League players travelling to Brazil without going into self-isolation

The South American football confederation CONMEBOL later confirmed the game – which was 0-0 when it was stopped – had been called off by the referee.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA regrets the scenes preceding the suspension of the match between Brazil and Argentina for the CONMEBOL qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2022 which prevented millions of fans from enjoying a match between two of the most important football nations in the world.

“The first match official reports have been sent to FIFA. This information will be analysed by the competent disciplinary bodies and a decision will be taken in due course.”

What were the Covid protocols and were they broken?

Anvisa had sought the immediate isolation of the four players just hours before the game in Sao Paulo.

“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement ahead of kick-off.

The Argentine squad flew into Brazil on Friday, the day after beating Venezuela 3-1 in a World Cup Qualifier in Caracas.

Anvisa were tipped off the four players did not state they had been in the UK within the last two weeks on their immigration forms. The health regulator confirmed the details the players gave were “false”.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) expressed its “deep discomfort” at the suspension of the match.

It said the team had been in Brazil since September 3 and had complied with all the health protocols.

Lionel Messi leaves the pitch against Brazil
Lionel Messi leaves the pitch against Brazil

“Football should not experience these kinds of episodes that undermine the sportsmanship of such an important competition,” the AFA said in a statement.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said it “deeply regrets” the events that ended up causing the suspension and insisted Anvisa “could have exercised its activity in a much more appropriate manner in the various moments and days prior to the match”.

It added: “The CBF also emphasizes that at no time, through the interim president, Ednaldo Rodrigues, or its directors, interfered in any point related to the sanitary protocol established by the Brazilian authorities for the entry of people into the country.

“The role of the CBF was always in an attempt to promote understanding between the entities involved so that the sanitary protocols could be fulfilled satisfactorily and the game could be played.”