FIFA, CONMEBOL to meet over in-doubt World Cup Qualifiers

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CONMEBOL will meet on Saturday via video to find a solution to the impasse created after several top European clubs announced they will not release their South American players in March to compete in World Cup qualifying due to COVID-19 transmission fears over travel.

"We have set a virtual meeting for tomorrow [Saturday] between the FIFA president and the CONMEBOL executive committee," CONMEBOL said in a tweet on Friday after a meeting.

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The talks between FIFA and the CONMEBOL are focused around the double header of qualifiers scheduled for March 25-26 and March 30 for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

European clubs, where a large number of South American players ply their trade, are unlikely to release their players to travel amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine restrictions.

All 10 South American countries feature on the UK government's "red list" travel ban, which does not include exemptions for athletes and sports people. Any UK-based players who played in the games would face 10 days in hotel quarantine on return.

Colombia suspended flights to and from Brazil at the end of January as cases there began to rise and a new more contagious strain appeared. And the country's health minister has rejected the idea of allowing a charter flight of Brazilian footballers to land in Colombia later this month.

"The chance of receiving any flight from Brazil is very remote, there's no way to justify the arrival of a charter flight," the minister, Fernando Ruiz, said in a statement released on Friday.

Sources say one option discussed is playing the qualifiers in a "bubble" in a European city. Recent Champions League and Europa League matches have been played in neutral venues in Athens, Bucharest, and Budapest.

Some 1,910 people died in Brazil on Wednesday, a record daily high. More than 260,000 have perished in the South American nation, more than anywhere in the world outside the United States.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.