SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian authorities have abandoned plans to allow a crowd of 12,000 to watch Sunday’s World Cup qualifier with Argentina due to what the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said was a lack of time to prepare.

The CBF had promised a 12,000 crowd would be the first step to the possible reopening of stadiums in Brazil after almost a year-and-a-half of games without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, only 1,500 invited guests will be allowed inside the 48,234-capacity Neo Quimica Arena, home of Sao Paulo club Corinthians, for the match.

After talks with local health officials it had been decided there was not enough time to organise the sale of tickets and regulate the COVID-19 tests that fans would have to take before entry, the CBF said in a statement.

The much-awaited clash between the South American giants is the second in a triple header of World Cup qualifiers taking place between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9. Brazil play Chile on Thursday and, after facing Argentina, they take on Peru on Sept 9.

Brazil top the South American qualifying group after six games, six points ahead of second-placed Argentina. The top four teams qualify automatically for Qatar 2022.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; editing by Clare Fallon)

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