Argentina’s Covid-ravaged national women’s football team were beaten by rivals Brazil on Thursday, as their campaign in the SheBelieves Cup got underway.
However, there were mitigating circumstances. The Albiceleste’s preparations for the game had been rocked just hours before kick off, after four of their players were ruled out due to a positive Covid-19 case in their squad.
On the field, things went even worse, as the Brazilians romped home to a 4-1 win.
Brazil, who delivered an impressive performance, proved too powerful for their rivals, with captain Marta – honoured six times as the best female footballer of the year by FIFA – scoring from the penalty spot to give her team the lead on 29 minutes.
Goals from Beatriz, Adriana and Geyse Ferreira completed the Brazil scoring while Mariana Larroquette scored a consolation goal for Argentina.
National team coach Carlos Borrello, speaking after the match, referenced the last-minute pull-outs, as well as observing that Argentina had been invited to the tournament with less than a month’s notice after Japan pulled out amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We wanted to take the risk of being in a competition as important as this one," Borrello told reporters.
Despite only one positive test for Covid-19, the Albiceleste lost four players for the crucial clash due to the tournament’s protocols, put in place to tackle the spread of the virus.
Just hours before kick-off, the United States Soccer Federation revealed that one Argentina player had tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the four-team event, which also includes the USA and Canada. She has been ruled out of the tournament.
Another player was placed in isolation after "inconsistent" test results upon arrival. She was ruled ineligible for Thursday's opener against Brazil along with two other players with whom she had been in contact.
All three players will have further testing to determine their eligibility for remaining matches in the round-robin tournament scheduled for February 21 and 24, the statement said.
"All other members of the Argentina delegation – players and staff – tested negative on arrival and in multiple tests during their pre-camp prior to traveling to Orlando," US Soccer said. "In addition, all members of the USA, Brazil and Canada delegations – players and staff – have tested negative in multiple tests after arrival in Orlando."
Argentina had replaced Japan in the tournament at short notice after the Japanese withdrew last month because of the Covid-19 situation in Japan.
Although Florida has been one of the worst-hit US states during the pandemic, the region has continued to host high-profile sporting events, including the finale to last year's NBA season, Major League's Soccer's restart tournament and the Super Bowl earlier this month.