At Maracana Stadium, the commencement of the World Cup qualifier between Argentina and Brazil faced a half-hour delay due to clashes between Brazilian police and visiting fans, alleged Argentina captain Lionel Messi.
Tensions erupted between Brazilian and Argentine fans during the national anthems, leading to a confrontation prompting police intervention. The situation escalated as Argentina supporters reacted by dismantling and hurling seats at the officers, causing chaos as some fans rushed onto the field to evade the turmoil.
Among the distressing scenes, an Argentine fan suffered facial injuries, necessitating stretcher transport from the stadium.
In an attempt to ease tensions, Messi and the Argentine team approached the stands before ultimately retreating to the dressing room. In a pitchside interview, Messi voiced his concerns about the police’s actions, drawing parallels to previous incidents: “It was bad because we saw how they were beating people… The police, as it already happened in the Libertadores final, were once again repressing the people with night sticks, there were players who had families over there.”
The Argentine captain highlighted the priority of diffusing the situation over the secondary importance of the match: “We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy… You think about the families, the people who are there, who don’t know what’s going on and we were more concerned about that than playing a match that, at that point, was of secondary importance.”
Brazil’s captain, Marquinhos, expressed similar worries, emphasizing the distress among spectators: “We were worried about the families, women and children, that we were seeing in panic up there in the stands… Down on the pitch it was hard for us to understand what was going on, it was a very scary situation.”
Ahead of the Copa Libertadores final earlier this month, violent clashes had erupted between Boca Juniors and Fluminense fans in Rio de Janeiro, echoing the distressing scenes witnessed during the qualifier.
After corraling the visiting fans and a prolonged delay, the match eventually resumed. Argentina secured a 1-0 victory, marked by a 63rd-minute goal from defender Nicolas Otamendi, celebrating the win in front of their supporters despite the prior unrest.
The defeat marked Brazil’s third consecutive loss in the World Cup qualifiers, compounded by midfielder Joelinton’s expulsion 18 minutes from time.