South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) says it will hold a virtual meeting tomorrow with FIFA President Gianni Infantino to discuss this month’s FIFA World Cup qualification matches, with European clubs refusing to release players due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
FIFA last month extended temporary amendments related to the release of players for international matches, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FIFA Council said this would "provide additional flexibility regarding the release of players for national team duty and the registration of players with clubs in competitions that remain disrupted by the pandemic."
Under the amendment, club teams can refuse to release their players for international matches should there be a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days on their return.
The Portuguese Football Federation has moved its World Cup qualifying game against Azerbaijan to Turin, Italy, to enable players from top clubs to participate, amid fears clubs would block their release due to players potentially facing quarantine periods on their return home.
The issue has been particularly challenging for CONMEBOL, with several European clubs indicating they will refuse to release players to their countries for the latest round of South American qualification matches for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
CONMEBOL held a meeting today to discuss the issue, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino expected to join another meeting tomorrow.
"A working session of FIFA, CONMEBOL and member associations was held on the March date of the qualifiers," a CONMEBOL statement read.
"FIFA pledged to continue looking for a solution to the impasse that arose because South American players who play in European leagues are not released in favour of their national teams.
"Tomorrow a virtual meeting is scheduled between the FIFA President and the CONMEBOL Council."
According to Reuters, CONMEBOL is reluctant to hold qualification matches in Europe amid the possible loss of a home advantage to teams.
Holding matches in Europe had been raised as a possibility, following UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches being moved to Greece, Hungary and Romania last month to avoid club sides facing quarantine issues.
The postponement of fixtures is reportedly favoured by FIFA, however this could represent an issue with CONMEBOL due to stage its rescheduled Copa America in June and July.
Four rounds of CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualification cycle have been completed to date, with two rounds of fixtures due this month.
Two rounds are scheduled in June, prior to the Copa America.
The qualification process for Qatar 2022 has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the latest round of the Asian Football Confederation process having been delayed.
The AFC are expected to host matches in a bubble format in June as part of attempts to catch-up on the delayed fixtures.