Argentina's national team coach Lionel Scaloni will not travel to Chile for Thursday's World Cup qualifier in the city of Calama because he is suffering from Covid-19, he has announced at a virtual press conference.
"Both [his assistant Pablo] Aimar and I will not be able to be part of the delegation. Pablo has been at home for several days because he is in close contact. I completed the isolation several days ago, but I'm still positive and to enter Chile you need a negative result," Scaloni said.
Argentina, who are joint qualifiers with Brazil for Qatar 2022, had already lost captain and goalscorer Lionel Messi, who also contracted Covid-19 during his last visit to the country in December and only returned to play for PSG on Sunday.
"Luckily we've qualified," said Scaloni, and he was confident that in Calama "we'll be a well-organised team against a very tough opponent. The players who are going to be on the pitch must continue to show that they are up to the task.
Against Chile, Scaloni and Aimar will be replaced on the bench by Walter Samuel and Roberto Ayala, additional members of the coaching staff of the 2021 Copa América 2021 champions, the coach announced.
Covid-19 also left out midfielder Alexis Mac Allister, who tested positive, and his roommate in the training camp, Emiliano Buendía. "One of the two was going to play," lamented Scaloni.
"I have the team, but I can't confirm who is going to play because of everything that's going on with the Covid issue. Surely there won't be any more setbacks, but we have to wait and be cautious," he added.
Since the beginning of the year, Argentina has been facing a third wave of covid-19, with an average of more than 100,000 cases and almost 300 deaths per day. In total, more than eight million infections and 120,000 deaths have been recorded. Seventy-six per cent of the population is fully vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine.
Argentina will play its second match of this round of South American qualifiers against Colombia on Tuesday, February 1, in the city of Córdoba.