The Copa America will now take place in Brazil in just under a fortnight’s time after Argentina being dropped sparked a hectic scramble to find a new host.
Earlier on Monday, it was revealed that the rise in the Covid-19 infection rate in Argentina forced organisers to move the tournament away – and the drastic action temporarily left it without a home.
The showpiece, which features 10 South American nations, was due to happen in Argentina and Colombia between June 13 and July 10, but the concept of joint-hosts has fallen through with the latter also axed.
Brazil were named as the Copa America hosts less than two weeks before the showpiece starts
Colombia was removed as co-host on May 20 after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country and Argentina has now followed due to what CONMEBOL said was the ‘present circumstances’.
CONMEBOL did not disclose the nature of the circumstances that led to the decision but Argentina is currently experiencing a surge in cases.
This makes the decision to select Brazil to step up surprising, however, with the country having been hit by over 450,000 Covid deaths. The rising infection rate there is also a concern.
The tournament was temporarily left without a home after Argentina were axed on Monday
‘CONMEBOL is analysing offers from other countries that have shown interest in hosting the continental tournament,’ said in a short statement from the organisers. ‘Updates will be announced soon.’
Officials from the organisation met on Monday to decide on the next steps for the tournament, which was pushed back from 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sunday’s stunning decision was announced shortly before 11pm in Argentina at the end of a weekend in which opposition to the tournament grew both inside and outside the government.
Argentina saw Covid-19 cases grow quickly in May and prompted the government to mandate a strict new lockdown.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina were dropped as a host country due to the rise in Covid-19 infections
Co-hosts Colombia had already been stripped amid ongoing political issues in the country
Thursday saw a record one-day number of new cases and the overall death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
Even some players who had returned to South America to prepare for the tournament expressed doubts, with Luis Suarez of Uruguay telling reporters on Friday, ‘we have to give priority to the health of human beings’.
Gonzalo Belloso, CONMEBOL’s secretary general, said last week the organisation had spoken to Chilean officials with a view to perhaps hosting some matches there.
Organisers are reluctant to call the tournament off because of its importance financially.
Organisers were scrambling to find a new host with the first fixture set to kick off very soon
The last Copa America, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118million and was the second biggest annual source of revenue after the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.
This year each competing nation is to receive a minimum of $4m, with the winner receiving an additional $10m, CONMEBOL said.
CONMEBOL’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years, with the organisation forced to move the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final to Madrid due to fan violence in Buenos Aires.