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River Plate will be forced to play Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores tie with no recognised goalkeepers after a Covid-19 outbreak in the squad. Twenty River players have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days, including all their eligible goalkeepers.
The team’s manager, Marcelo Gallardo, will therefore only have 10 fit players for the match against Independiente Santa Fe of Colombia. Santa Fe have their own problems, having record five positive cases of Covid-19 in recent days.
On Tuesday, the club said 5ft 10in midfielder Enzo Pérez will step in as emergency goalkeeper. Pérez had been ruled out with a hamstring injury, but the club deemed him fit enough to play in goal given the dire circumstances. Only six of the team’s remaining available players have started a top-flight match for the club.
Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Conmebol, the tournament’s overseeing body, ruled against a petition by the Argentinian team to add two junior keepers, Alan Leonardo Díaz and Agustín Gómez, from their reserve squad. Díaz, 18, made his debut on Sunday when the team reported 15 positive Covid cases ahead of a cup tie against River’s archrivals, Boca Juniors. River lost the tie on penalties.
This outbreak is far from a surprise in South America. While countries in the northern hemisphere find relief from the pandemic amid mass vaccination campaigns, Argentina is being ravaged by Covid-19. Per capita, the country has the fourth-most cases and the third-most deaths from Covid-19 in the world over the last seven days.