Lionel Messi was overcome with emotion as he fulfilled a "dream" by eclipsing Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation.

Messi scored a hat-trick as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier and those goals took him past Pele.

His first, a curling effort after a cheeky nutmeg, saw him go level with Pele on 77, before a close-range finish just past the hour saw him set a new record.

He then added another for good measure at the end to complete his hat-trick and reach 79 goals for Argentina on a momentous night at the Monumental.

With La Albiceleste also finally able to celebrate July's Copa America triumph – a first in 28 years – in front of their own supporters at full-time, record-breaker Messi failed to hold back the tears.

"I have dreamed of this for a long time and I thank God it was given to me," he said on the pitch afterwards.

 

"It is a unique moment because of how it happened and after so much waiting.

"There was no better way for it to be and to be able to be here, celebrating, is something incredible.

"My mother and my brothers are up there, they suffered a lot too. I'm very happy."

It was Messi's seventh hat-trick for his country, but his first on home soil and ensured Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 22 matches, a streak that began in 2019.

It was further proof that Argentina are building themselves back up to a standard many associate with the two-time World Cup winners after a poor showing at Russia 2018, a tournament that essentially led to a reset.

Messi's international future at the time was in doubt as he took an extended break from international football – back then, many would have suggested Pele's record looked set to outlast Argentina's talisman.

"I cannot do more than be so happy, for my family who is watching me and for all Argentines," Messi continued.

"I always say individual awards are secondary, because we are here for something else, but the truth is I am very excited."

Quade Cooper will make a remarkable return for the Wallabies after being named to play for the first time since 2017 when Australia face South Africa on Sunday.

Cooper had been part of Australia's squad for the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand, but was not used in any of the three Tests which the All Blacks comfortably won.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice for the Rugby Championship showdown against South Africa on the Gold Coast, with 33-year-old Cooper named at fly-half, displacing 21-year-old Noah Lolesio.

Cooper's career has taken several turns since his last cap in 2017 against Italy, frozen out at Brad Thorn's Reds in Super Rugby, before a one-year stint at the Rebels and a move to play in Japan in 2019.

"He's had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he's excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night," Rennie said.

Angus Bell will earn his first start in the front-row, while Izack Rodda also comes into the starting line-up, with the backline unchanged.

Wallabies hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and back-rower Rob Leota are in line for debuts off the bench.

The match will see Australia captain Michael Hooper equal George Gregan's record for most Tests as Wallabies skipper when he steps out for the 59th time.

Meanwhile, Brodie Retallick has been named as captain for New Zealand after a head knock to Ardie Savea ahead of their Test against Argentina on Sunday.

Hooker Asafo Aumua will make his first Test start for the All Blacks, while prop Joe Moody returns following foot surgery via the bench.

"Brodie is a great leader in this team and we don't take his leadership for granted," said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "We think this is a great honour for him, and he and his family can be hugely proud. 

"He's playing really well and leads from the front. He has come back into the black jersey this year and just picked up where he left off.

"He also has an experienced partner in Beaudy [Barrett] alongside him who is bringing a calmness to the team and a sense of direction and we’re seeing that in the way he plays."

 

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu'inukuafe, Asafo Aumua, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson.
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Joe Moody, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'I, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane.

Lionel Messi became the all-time leading goalscorer in CONMEBOL history after his hat-trick guided Argentina past Bolivia 3-0 in World Cup qualifying.

Messi broke Pele's record as the top-scoring player for a South American nation thanks to his 78th and 79th international goals on Thursday.

The 34-year-old Argentina superstar moved level with Brazil great Pele (77) after opening the scoring in the 14th minute before moving top in the history books with his 64th-minute effort in Buenos Aires, where he completed his hat-trick during the closing stages.

Lionel Scaloni's second-placed Argentina remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar 2022 with five wins from their eight fixtures, while they extended their undefeated streak to 22 matches across all competitions.

Copa America champions Argentina were back in action after their blockbuster showdown with rivals Brazil was abandoned in chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were not involved against Bolivia as Argentina looked to continue their dominance, with the South American champions having never lost to La Verde in 15 home games in all competitions (W13, D2).

Argentina were on the front foot from the outset and opened the scoring through their talisman Messi after 15 minutes – the superstar nutmegging his opponent before curling his shot into the net.

Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored 12 minutes later, however, the Argentina forward was ruled offside.

Martinez then wasted a glorious chance in the 39th minute, side-footing a shot just wide of the post after being teed up by Messi following his run into the penalty area.

Argentina had more opportunities to extend their lead prior to half-time, but Messi saw his curling effort sail agonisingly wide of the woodwork, while Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was fortunate not to concede in the third minute of stoppage time having emerged off his line.

Bolivia spent more time in Argentina's half in the second period, but never really troubled the home side, who doubled their lead just past the hour-mark.

Messi capped a superb team move, finding the back of the net from close range in the 65th minute as he celebrated history in front of fans, and he ended the night with a three-goal haul after pouncing on a rebound with two minutes of regulation remaining.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi created more history, surpassing Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation on Thursday.

Messi scored his 78th international goal for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, breaking the record held by Brazil great Pele.

A six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi had moved level with Pele with his opening goal of the match on Thursday before his brace sent him clear in the record books.

Messi produced a moment of magic in the 14th minute, playing the ball through his opponent's legs before curling a shot past the goalkeeper in Buenos Aires, where the 34-year-old then made history in the 64th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Next on the list of leading CONMEBOL scorers after Messi is Pele (77), then Uruguay's Luis Suarez (64), followed by Chile forward Alexis Sanchez (46) and Peru star Paolo Guerrero (38).

It is not the first time Messi has eclipsed Pele, having surpassed the Santos icon with the most goals for an individual club with his 644th in Barcelona colours in December.

It comes after Messi guided Argentina to Copa America glory in July, ending the country's 28-year wait for silverware with his first senior international crown.

 

Lionel Messi has equalled Brazil great Pele's record as the top-scoring player of all time for a South American nation with his 77th goal for Argentina.

The 34-year-old equalled the long-standing record when he opened the scoring for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia on Thursday.

Messi produced a moment of magic in the 15th minute, playing the ball through his opponent's legs before curling a shot past the goalkeeper in Buenos Aires.

Next on the list of leading CONMEBOL scorers after Messi and Pele is Uruguay's Luis Suarez (64), followed by Chile forward Alexis Sanchez (46) and Peru star Paolo Guerrero (38).

Messi is now poised to eclipse Pele and not for the first time, having surpassed the Santos icon with the most goals for an individual club with his 644th in Barcelona colours in December.

It comes after Messi guided Argentina to Copa America glory in July, ending the country's 28-year wait for silverware with his first senior international crown.

 

Brazil coach Tite feels Argentina showed a lack of respect in the decision-making process that saw four players allegedly breach coronavirus regulations ahead of Sunday's doomed World Cup qualifier.

The fixture was suspended mid-game due to Argentina's Premier League players apparently flouting Brazil's coronavirus restrictions.

Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso started the match, with Brazilian health officials entering the pitch after the game had kicked off. A melee ensued before Argentina left the field and did not return.

Due to the pandemic, Brazil is temporarily restricting entry to travellers from the United Kingdom if they have spent time in the country within the previous two weeks. The Selecao had attempted to call up nine players from the English top flight, but none of those selected travelled as Premier League clubs united in an agreement not to release players.

FIFA has since launched an investigation into the match's interruption, with disciplinary cases opened against the national associations of both Argentina and Brazil.

While Tite would rather the health officials had not stormed the pitch, he also believes football should not think it is above the law.

Asked what would be the "fair" decision regarding the outcome of the match, he said: "The fair decision is to respect the laws. The fair decision is to put people's health first. The fair decision is that sport is important but has a scale of importance on which health is higher. The laws are above this [football].

"I wish the game had happened, [but] we need laws, and to respect those laws. Football is not above that. It has to be respected. We're dealing with lives. It's about health.

"Coming here and going over laws and circumventing situations ... this does not happen. Of course I'd like the game to have happened.

"I cannot judge what happened. I do not know enough to know what was done and at what time it was done. I cannot judge it and I should not judge it.

"But to be above the law, you have to have a little respect. Respect for the entity, for a country, for its people, for a club, for a national team. Calm and respect."

Lionel Messi reflected on his "special" Copa America triumph after fulfilling a dream, having been treated as a "failure" with Argentina.

Messi guided Argentina to their first trophy in 28 years – La Albiceleste dethroning defending champions and hosts Brazil in July's Copa final.

For Messi, it ended years of heartache and near misses after the superstar Argentina captain finished runner-up in the Copa America three times (2007, 2015 and 2016) as well as a beaten finalist at the 2014 World Cup.

As Argentina prepare for Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi discussed his first senior international crown.

"After so much suffering, lifting something with the national team was special," Paris Saint-Germain's Messi – Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer and most-capped player – told ESPN. "There was a part of the journalists that treated me as a failure and that I didn't feel the shirt.

"Everything I won was important, I was lucky to have won a lot of things in a row at my club and very fast and the blows came later.

"With the national team, it was blow after blow, that made it more important now. It cost a lot to get it.

"When we won, I couldn't believe it. I dreamed it so much that I didn't understand what was happening. Honestly, I enjoy it more now when I see the images than that moment."

Messi won a club-record 35 trophies at Camp Nou – including 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues – before sensationally leaving Barcelona for PSG on a free transfer in 2021-22.

"I don't know where I'd place it [Copa America triumph]. Everything I won was important but this was the most difficult," Messi said.

"A lot of things happened and I won very quickly at Barcelona. At the national team, it was one hit after another."

Argentina are in the midst of a 21-match unbeaten streak – dating back to 2019 – after Sunday's blockbuster clash against Brazil was abandoned following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina are undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 and Messi added: "You have to start by recognising that we are not the best in the world.

"We were not the worst before and we are not the best now."

FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Brazil and Argentina after the suspended World Cup qualifier on Sunday.

The fixture came to a halt following an alleged breach of coronavirus regulations by Argentina relating to Premier League players.

Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso started the match, leading to Brazilian health officials to act by entering the pitch after the game had kicked off. A melee ensued before Argentina left the field and did not return.

Brazil restricts entry to travellers from the United Kingdom if they have spent time in the country within the previous two weeks. The Selecao had attempted to call up nine players from the English top flight, but none of those selected travelled as Premier League clubs united in an agreement not to release players.

FIFA started investigations into the scenes on Monday, with world football's governing body then confirming disciplinary cases had been opened against the two national associations.

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

"The two teams were asked to provide further information on the facts that 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."

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) insisted it warned Argentina's Premier League-based quartet about the need to quarantine after Sunday's blockbuster CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier was sensationally abandoned.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

Brazil had called up nine Premier League stars to their side, though none of the group travelled, with top-flight English clubs given backing not to release players.

Travellers from the United Kingdom are also restricted entry to Brazil if they have spent time in the country within the previous 14 days.

Despite the rulings, Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were all starters for Lionel Scaloni's Copa America champions Argentina, with Brazilian health officials quickly acting by entering the pitch shortly after the match had started.

A subsequent melee ensued and the visitors eventually left the field and did not return, Brazil playing out a training fixture among one another.

As FIFA investigates, CBF released a statement on Monday, providing further information following a meeting that took place at the Hotel Marriot on Saturday amid criticism from Argentina, denying it interfered.

"CBF sent representation to said meeting as a listener, at the request of the Health Surveillance of the State of Sao Paulo, where representatives of the aforementioned agency, the Ministry of Health, ANVISA, CONMEBOL and the Argentine Football Association (AFA) were gathered.

"The CBF was represented by Dr. Roberto Nishimura, operational coordinator of the special medical committee, and there was no interference on his part in relation to administrative or sanitary aspects. This meeting ended around 18:00.

"As it understands that this is not a matter of its attribution, at no time was there any manifestation by the CBF representative to the authorities regarding the health issue of the four Argentine athletes, either in the sense of releasing or vetoing their participation in the game.

"At this meeting, the representatives of the Argentine national team were informed that there was an irregularity in the entry of players, that they should be quarantined and received guidance from the authorities to request, with the competent bodies, special authorisation for the players to have their situation regularised. It was a technical discussion between ANVISA, the Ministry of Health and the Argentine Association.

"After the meeting, when the athletes' presence was requested, the Health Surveillance agents were informed that the players had left for training, not complying with the instructions given during the meeting. The agency reported the non-compliance to the National Health Surveillance Agency and the Ministry of Health, responsible for analysing the request for exceptionality forwarded by CONMEBOL on behalf of the AFA.

"All these steps are described in detail by ANVISA in an official note published on Sunday, 5, and updated this Monday, 6, as complete at the end of this.

"On Sunday, 5th, this request had an official negative response, by the Ministry of Health to CONMEBOL, and the Argentine national team was notified, directly at Neo Quimica Arena, with enough time to adopt the necessary procedures.

"As for the information that circulated about the presence of CBF's Director of Competitions, Manoel Flores, at the Argentine delegation's hotel, CBF informs that he was in fact at the hotel on Saturday, around 3:00 pm, solely to talk about operational details of the game with the atache [member of the team organising the match] who accompanied the Argentine national team, remaining in place for about 15 minutes and not having dealt with any matter related to the Argentine players. Visiting the visiting delegation's hotel is a regular routine in every gaming operation.

"The CBF further clarifies that it strictly fulfilled its institutional role as the game's host entity, informing everyone involved in the game about the health laws in force in the country in a letter sent, through the General Secretariat of the entity, on July 5th, and later resubmitted on 11 August and 2 September.

"CBF reiterates that it defends the implementation of the most rigorous health protocols and complies with them in their entirety, both in the national territory and in countries where the Brazilian team acts as a visitor.

"The CBF also emphasises 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."

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez believes his country's World Cup qualifier against Brazil was suspended due to "political reasons".

Martinez was one of three Premier League players who started Sunday's match between the South American heavyweights at the Neo Quimica Arena.

However, the match was stopped shortly after kick-off when Brazilian health officials came onto the pitch to apprehend Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, restricting the entry of those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Brazil had called up nine players from the Premier League for their September games, but none of the group travelled.

Anvisa, Brazil's health authority, said in a widely released statement shortly before Sunday's game: "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."

Argentina's players walked off the pitch and did not return, with the game called off by the referee. On Monday, FIFA opened an investigation into the matter.

Martinez is now set to return to the UK along with his Aston Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia, who was not involved on Sunday, although they will travel via Croatia due to quarantine restrictions.

The former Arsenal keeper spoke to reporters at Ezeiza International Airport and did not hold back in his criticism of the decision.

"We all know what happened. We prepare for three days in Brazil to play the game and having it cancelled after five minutes is a bitter feeling," he said.

"We gave everything to win it and for political reasons, I don't know what happened, it was cancelled and we had to go back.

"There were rumours about those from the Premier League, who could not play the game, but they could have warned us when we arrived in Brazil, and we did not make enough trouble to cancel the game. Simple. They could have warned us before.

"It's a shame because we were going to win. We were confident, the team was doing well. We did not understand anything. We stayed for half an hour to see if we would go out to play or warm up again, and after 30 or 40 minutes, they told us we had to go."

Martinez also revealed there was a possibility he, along with the other Premier League players, would have had to remain in Brazil and in isolation for two weeks if not for the Argentine Football Association's intervention.

"There was the possibility that they would leave the four boys from England there for 14 days," Martinez said. "But Chiqui [Tapia, president of the AFA] helped us, backed us all and said 'we're all going' and we all left.

"Aston Villa did not understand the regulations of Brazil and why it happened. It is not something the world expected to see. It was something to enjoy and not to make a fool of yourself.

"The four of us decided to come for the love of the shirt; even though all of the Premier League [clubs] did not want us to come, we decided to come anyway.

"After winning the Copa America, the whole team wants to be with the group, not just give the national team a victory. It is something beautiful that we have and we accept the consequences."

FIFA has opened investigations into the suspended World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina.

The fixture was halted on Sunday after an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up.

Brazi had called up nine Premier League stars to their side, though none of the group travelled, with top-flight English clubs given backing not to release players.

Travellers from the United Kingdom are also restricted entry to Brazil if they have spent time in the country within the previous 14 days.

Despite the rulings, Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovanni Lo Celso were all starters for Argentina, with Brazilian health officials quickly acting by entering the pitch shortly after the match had started.

A subsequent melee ensued and the visitors eventually left the field and did not return, Brazil playing out a training fixture among one another.

While a decision is yet to be made on the outcome, football's world governing body provided an update on Monday.

"FIFA regrets the scene 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," a statement said.

"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."

Lionel Scaloni said he is upset Argentina's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier against Brazil was suspended amid farcical scenes on Sunday after Brazilian health officials stormed the pitch.

The high-profile contest at the Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo, which was set to see the likes of Neymar and Lionel Messi face off in a repeat of July's Copa America final, was halted just minutes after kick-off.

Local authorities entered the field in an attempt to remove four Argentina players that had apparently breached coronavirus regulations.

Those four players in question – Premier League quartet Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Emiliano Buendia – all ply their trade in England.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, meaning restricted entry to the nation for those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Brazil had called up nine internationals from the English top flight for their latest fixtures on the road to Qatar 2022, but none of the group travelled to their native country.

Despite having arrived in the country three days ago, ANVISA – Brazil's heath authority – demanded the Argentine quartet immediately quarantine.

But Argentina head coach Scaloni insisted his the Copa America champions were never informed the match was at risk of not being played.

"At no time were we notified that they could not play the match. We wanted to play the game, the players from Brazil too," he told reporters.

"It makes me very sad. I'm not looking for any culprits. Whether or not something happened, it was not the time to make that intervention.

"It should have been a party for everyone, to enjoy the best players in the world. I would like the people of Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to defend my players."

When the match began with the relevant Argentina players still included, health officials walked onto the pitch.

A melee broke out and the action was halted, with the entire Argentina team soon leaving the field.

Conversations continued, with the Brazil XI remaining on the pitch, while Argentina superstar Messi reappeared to speak with officials and his opponents, including Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar.

Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia said: "Here you can't talk about any lie because there is a health legislation under which all South American tournaments are played.

"The health authorities of each country approved a protocol that we have been complying with to the maximum.

"What was experienced today is regrettable for football, it is a very bad image. 

"Four people came in to interrupt the match to make a notification and CONMEBOL asked the players to go to the locker room."

The AFA also released a statement, which read: "The Argentine Football Association expresses its deep discomfort at the suspension of the meeting between the Argentine national team and the Brazilian national team in Sao Paulo. 

"Like the CBF, the AFA is surprised by the actions of ANVISA once the game has started. It should be noted that the Albiceleste delegation was in Brazilian territory since September 3 at 8am, complying with all current sanitary protocols regulated by CONMEBOL for the normal development of the qualifiers heading to Qatar 2022. 

"Following the report from the CONMEBOL officials and the match referee, the information will be forwarded to the competent FIFA body in accordance with current regulations. Football should not experience these kinds of episodes that undermine the sportsmanship of such an important competition."

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues joined his opposite number in criticising the health officials for the timing of their intervention.

"I feel sorry for all the sports fans who wanted to watch the game on television," he told Brazil's Sportv.

"With all due respect to ANVISA, they could have resolved this earlier and not waited for the game to start."

Brazil's World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Sao Paulo was halted on Sunday after the visiting side named three Premier League players in their starting XI, an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations.

The Selecao had called up nine internationals from the English top flight for their latest fixtures, but none of the group travelled to Brazil.

Argentina were able to include four Premier League stars, however, in Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Emiliano Buendia.

Martinez and Lo Celso both played in the side's 3-1 win against Venezuela earlier this week, but issues arose as they headed to Brazil.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, restricting the entry of those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Martinez, Romero, Lo Celso and Buendia – the first three were involved against Brazil – all fall under that category.

Anvisa, Brazil's health authority, said in a widely released statement shortly before Sunday's game: "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."

When the match began with the relevant Argentina players still included, health officials walked onto the pitch.

A melee broke out and the action was halted, with the entire Argentina team soon leaving the field.

Conversations continued, with the Brazil XI remaining on the pitch, while Argentina's Lionel Messi reappeared to speak with officials and his opponents.

There were few immediate updates from official sources, with both Brazil and Argentina reporting only that the game had been halted. The visiting side posted a further message to say it had been "suspended".

Brazil head coach Tite has argued that European clubs preventing South American players from being released for international duty is creating inequality ahead of next year's World Cup.

Tite will be without numerous key players for Sunday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match against Argentina after several English and Spanish clubs refused to release players travelling to red list countries.

Countries on that list for travel to and from the UK require arrivals to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status.

LaLiga followed suit on the Premier League clubs, refusing to release 25 players from 13 different clubs for matches to be played in South America.

Among the Brazilian contingent were captain Thiago Silva, goalkeeper Alisson, Fred, Renan Lodi, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino.

“I feel that there must be equality for all teams and I trust the good sense of the associations," Tite said at Saturday's pre-game news conference.

"That hurts the preparation of Brazil and all the South American football teams that will be left without the same preparation for the World Cup, giving an advantage to the European teams."

Premier League pair Aston Villa and Tottenham permitted Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristiano Romero to link up with Argentina under the belief they would return after the Brazil game.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni claimed that he knew nothing about any agreement with Villa or Tottenham and intended to retain the trio for their third match against Bolivia.

Tite also hinted that Marseille midfielder Gerson would likely get a starting chance against Argentina along with Flamengo midfielder Everton Ribeiro.

Brazil remain top in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a perfect record with seven wins from seven games, while Argentina are unbeaten in second with 15 points.

Lionel Messi looks likely to be fully fit to face Brazil despite Luis Martinez's horror tackle on the Argentina captain, head coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Venezuela's Martinez was sent off for a crude lunge on the Paris Saint-Germain star in the Albiceleste's 3-1 World Cup qualifying win this week as Scaloni's men maintained their unbeaten streak.

There were concerns Messi would be a doubt for the clash in Sao Paulo against Brazil, who are six points clear at the top of the CONMEBOL standings after winning all seven of their qualifiers.

However, Scaloni was confident his talisman would be fit to start when speaking with the media on Saturday.

"Leo is okay," he said. "This afternoon, we'll train and focus on the pitch. Those who played against Venezuela didn't touch the ball yesterday [Friday].

"We'll know 100 per cent this afternoon. In principle, he's fine. It was a big scare, but that's how it stayed."

Scaloni expects an extremely difficult match against the side Argentina beat 1-0 in the final of the Copa America this year.

"Whoever plays, they're important opposition. In no case do we minimise the game," he said.

"They're coming off an incredibly positive streak and they're at the same level whoever plays, with players of quality in every position.

"These are opponents of enormous quality, of enormous attacking power. If you're not ready for that, you can suffer. If you don't think the opponent can hurt you, you're making a mistake.

"We know that it can happen at some point, but we also know what we have to do when we have the ball. We only have one way to play: go deep with the ball into the opposition half."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.