Copa América moved from Argentina to Brazil just 13 days before kick-off

The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) has announced Brazil as the new hosts of this summer’s Copa América, with Argentina replaced just 13 days before the tournament is due to begin.

“The Copa América 2021 will be played in Brazil,” an official Conmebol statement said. “Tournament start and end dates are confirmed. The venues and the fixtures will be announced by Conmebol in the next few hours.”

The tournament, featuring 10 South American nations, had been due to be held in Argentina and Colombia between 13 June and 10 July, the first time in its 105-year history with joint hosts. Now, neither country will host the tournament, which was hosted and won by Brazil in 2019.

Colombia was removed as a co-host on 20 May after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country and Argentina has followed because of what Conmebol said was the “present circumstances”.

It did not disclose the nature of the circumstances but Argentina is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, prompting the government to mandate a strict new lockdown. The country’s Covid death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organization.

In that context, the decision to relocate the event to Brazil is surprising. Argentina’s neighbour has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, with more than 400,000 Brazilians lost to the pandemic. Rallies have been held across the country to demand the impeachment of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, over his handling of the crisis.

Some players have expressed doubts over whether the tournament should go ahead, with Uruguay’s Luis Suárez 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 hosting some matches there. Organisers have been reluctant to call the tournament off because of its financial importance.

The 2019 Copa América brought in $118m and was the confederation’s 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 (£2.8m), with the winners receiving an additional $10m.