Argentina hands Brazil third straight loss after crowd violence delay in Rio

  • Argentina won the World Cup qualifier against Brazil 1-0.
  • Problems started in the stands during the national anthems at Maracanã.

A towering header from Nicolas Otamendi secured Argentina a 1-0 away victory over Brazil in a bad-tempered World Cup qualifier. The match, which was delayed by half an hour on Tuesday, resulted from police clashing with fans at a sold-out Maracana Stadium.

The intense sporting rivalry between two of the most successful teams in world football reached a fever pitch when Brazilian police charged Argentinian fans in response to fighting in the stands during the national anthems. In retaliation, the fans tore up seats and threw them at the officers. Near the trouble, panicked fans entered the pitch to escape the fighting. At least one injured fan was taken from the stadium on a stretcher.

Led by captain Lionel Messi, the world champions went over to the terraces in an attempt to calm the situation before leaving the pitch. They then returned to the dressing room for more than 10 minutes.

The players eventually returned, and the match commenced amidst a tumult of noise as local fans roared their support for the five-time world champions. The team was seeking to get their campaign back on track after experiencing successive losses in qualifiers for the first time.

Instead, they suffered a third straight defeat, marking their first-ever loss at home in a World Cup qualifier. They now occupy the sixth position in the standings, trailing leaders Argentina by eight points and holding the last spot that guarantees a berth at the 2026 finals.

“The truth is that this group continues to achieve historic things, once again,” said Argentina captain Lionel Messi.

“Obviously, at the beginning, it was bad because we saw how they were beating people. You think about the family, the people who are there, who don’t know what’s going on, and we are more concerned about that than playing a match. At that point, the match was secondary…”

“After that, winning this game in this manner I think is one of the most important victories that this group has achieved. It is something very gratifying to be able to win here in Brazil, considering how strong they have been at home throughout their history.”

After all the pre-match drama, the first half was nervy, featuring 22 fouls, three bookings, and several skirmishes as rival players frequently faced off. The referee flashed cards in an attempt to calm the situation.

Brazil was arguably the better side and came close to scoring from a corner just before half-time, with a Gabriel Martinelli strike that defender Christian Romero cleared off the goal line.

Despite being without key players like Vinicius Jr and Neymar due to injuries and losing their captain Marquinhos to a leg issue halfway through the game, Brazil maintained the pressure.

They squandered a golden opportunity to score in the 47th minute when Martinelli missed an absolute sitter, striking a close-range shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Argentina held on and capitalized on one of the few chances they created in the 63rd minute when defender Otamendi rose high to power home a corner delivered by Giovani Lo Celso.

It was Argentina’s only shot on target, and Brazil’s misery was compounded when substitute midfielder Joelinton was sent off for hitting Rodrigo de Paul in the face in the 82nd minute, only three minutes after he came off the bench.

The world champions handed their fiercest rivals a third consecutive loss as Brazil entered the match having suffered back-to-back defeats in World Cup qualifiers for the first time in their history.

It was also Brazil’s first-ever home loss in a World Cup qualifier. Argentina tops the standings with 15 points, while Brazil is eight points behind in sixth place, securing the last spot that guarantees a berth at the 2026 finals.