RIO DE JANEIRO, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) has suspended World Cup qualifiers scheduled for later this month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement followed a virtual meeting between FIFA representatives and CONMEBOL officials on Saturday, in which it was agreed that contagion risks and quarantine rules made the fixtures unviable.
"The decision is due to the impossibility...of counting on all the South American players," CONMEBOL said in a statement.
"FIFA will analyse the rescheduling of the round in coordination with CONMEBOL and the members associations."
The 10 South American teams had been due to play two qualifiers each from March 25 to 30.
Many European clubs had already said they would not release their players for the matches. On Friday, Colombia's health ministry said it would not allow Brazil's national football team to enter the country for the teams' qualifier in Barranquilla on March 26.
The decision means CONMEBOL and FIFA will need to find new dates for the fixtures in a packed international football calendar. The South American zone qualifiers were already running behind their original schedule because of coronavirus-related lockdowns and travel restrictions last year.
The top four teams in the CONMEBOL group will earn a berth in the next edition of football's showpiece international tournament, to be played in Qatar from November 21 to December 18, 2022. The fifth-ranked side will advance to an intercontinental playoff.
South America has been one of the worst-affected regions by COVID-19. On Wednesday, Brazil's health ministry reported 1,910 coronavirus fatalities, the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began.