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Brazilian football finds itself in a state of crisis

Brazilian football finds itself in a state of crisis.

Objectively, things aren’t quite that bad. But it finds itself there anyway.

With the five-time World Cup winners starved of the trophy for more than two decades, and beaten to it by fiercest rivals Argentina last year, floundering through the opening rounds of 2026 qualifying cuts deeper than ever.

Losing a home qualifier for the first time in history, to said Lionel Messi-led rivals, stings even more.

Brazil’s last six CONMEBOL results

  • September 9: Bolivia (H) Won 5-1
  • September 13: Peru (A) Won 1-0
  • October 13: Venezuela (H) Drew 1-1
  • October 18: Uruguay (A) Lost 2-0
  • November 17: Colombia (A) Lost 2-1
  • November 22: Argentina (H) Lost 1-0

That was Brazil’s third consecutive defeat – an ignominy they have not suffered since 2001 – suffered under their second interim coach in less than a year, with the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti as Tite’s permanent successor still yet to be ratified.

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Argentina’s 1-0 win over Brazil was delayed due to fan violence between the Brazilian police and the Argentine fans

The Selecao certainly are in somewhat of a mess. But not at crisis levels yet.

By the time of their next World Cup qualifier, at home to Ecuador in 10 months’ time, their new head coach will almost certainly be in post. The likes of Richarlison and Vinicius Junior will be back from injury, and they may even enjoy a strong run in next summer’s Copa America.

Raphinha displays his frustration in Brazil's loss to Argentina
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Raphinha displays his frustration in Brazil’s loss to Argentina

Besides, Brazil rarely begin these campaigns well. They will almost certainly line up in the World Cup finals in three years’ time – Brazil are the only nation to have appeared in all 22 tournaments to date, and it is objectively harder to miss out than qualify through the CONMEBOL format, where six out of 10 teams progress.

It is also worth remembering the last time Brazil won the tournament in 2002 they scraped into the finals after losing to Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay – all of whom missed out on automatic qualification. Less than a year later, they turned on the samba style in Japan and South Korea to go all the way.

Concerns do run deeper than results. That team had Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho… You could go on. Despite the emergence of Real Madrid-bound Endrick, the latest wonderkid off the production line, that and any other golden generation feels as far away as ever – if not further.

But this is still a team with quality it would swap with few nations, at least when they are all fit.

Their concerns are a puzzle for management as well as the wider fanbase; the issue of the interim manager has played its part in their current predicament.

Brazil's Gabriel Jesus battles for the ball with Argentina's Marcos Acuna
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Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus battles for the ball with Argentina’s Marcos Acuna

The team selection is chaotic. Brazil have used more full-backs in six games than in their entire 2022 qualification run.

Right-back Emerson Royal is a prime example of a player not seen to follow in the footsteps of Cafu or Capita, but there are few alternatives knocking down the door to claim his place.

The choice of manager isn’t much more serene. Incumbent caretaker Fernando Diniz was only handed the role in September, having spent the last few years revolutionising the domestic game with Fluminense.

Here his task is exactly the opposite, keeping things ticking over until his permanent successor is appointed. He has now lost three of his six games in charge after this Argentina humbling.

RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL (via AP)

But perhaps the most painful feeling for Brazil right now is the sight of Messi leaving the fabled Maracana as a victor on Wednesday morning.

It allowed the 36-year-old to exorcise some demons on the same ground where his Argentina side lost the 2014 final to Germany, a wrong which looked like it may never be righted until he lifted the trophy in Qatar last December.

How Brazil could do with something similar. If anyone can provide it then Ancelotti will give it a good go. Otherwise, Brazilian football certainly will be in crisis.

‘Diniz caught up in own hubris’

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South American football expert Tim Vickery witnessed crowd trouble at the Maracana and believes the lack of fan segregation and ‘greed’ were factors in the disorder at the World Cup qualifier

Tim Vickery speaking from Rio de Janeiro following Brazil’s 1-0 loss to Argentina:

“I was there when history was made – Brazil losing a World Cup qualifier at home for the very first time. But it’s not something that’s going to live in the memory for the right reasons.

“I’ve been in the stadium for most of Brazil’s qualifiers with Argentina and some have been the finest games of football I’ve ever seen. Magnificent occasions. This was not one of them.

“Brazil have now lost three in a row – they’d never lost two in a row in World Cup qualification before now. It was clear that when Fernando Diniz took over it was going to be difficult for him. He’s a very unorthodox coach – very bold.

“National team football tends to be more cautious than club football because you don’t have the time on the training field, and Diniz has no experience at this level. He’s perhaps caught up in his own hubris. That’s a problem.

“There’s not a lot of organisation. Brazil are sixth in qualifying, if this was any other World Cup campaign they’d be struggling – fortunately this edition has 48 teams so I don’t think they’re in any danger.”

Martinez tries to stop police attacking Argentina fans as Brazil beaten

Lionel Messi and Emiliano Martinez tried to intervene as police clashed with Argentina fans before they dealt Brazil a historic defeat at the Maracana in a World Cup qualifier.

The longstanding sporting rivalry between two of the most successful teams in world football hit fever pitch after the Brazilian police charged Argentinian fans in response to fighting in the stands during the national anthems.

The world champions, led by captain Messi, went over to the terraces to try and calm the situation. During the clashes, Messi appealed for the clashes to stop and Martinez was filmed reaching into the crowd to try to stop a police officer using a baton. The Argentina players then left the pitch and returned to the dressing room for more than 10 minutes.

The match – delayed by 30 minutes – started in a tumult of noise as local fans roared their support of the five-times world champions, who were looking to get their campaign back on track after losing successive qualifiers for the first time.

However, Nicolas Otamendi scored with a towering header to give Argentina a 1-0 victory – the first time ever Brazil had lost a home World Cup qualifier.

Brazil stand sixth in the South America World Cup qualifying standings, eight points behind leaders Argentina and in the last spot that guarantees a berth at the 2026 finals.

In pictures: Night of drama at the Maracana

Emi Martinez and other Argentina players attempted to stop police from charging fans
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Emi Martinez and other Argentina players attempted to stop police from charging fans

Police try to stop a fight between Brazilian and Argentinian fans that broke out prior to a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 between Brazil and Argentina at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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Argentina players attempted to intervene as police charged fans in the crowd

Argentina's Lionel Messi leaves the field after a fight between Brazilian and Argentinian fans broke out in the stands prior to a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Players of Argentina try to calm the crowd after a fight between Brazilian and Argentinian fans broke out in the stands prior to a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL (via AP)
RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL (via AP)
RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL (via AP)
RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL Photo: Jhony Pinho/AGIF (via AP)
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Nicolas Otamendi scored the winner for Argentina

RJ - RIO DE JANEIRO - 11/21/2023 - 2026 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS, BRAZIL 2026. Photo: Jhony Pinho/AGIF (via AP)
Joelinton was sent off
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Joelinton was sent off for Brazil

‘Greed led to fan trouble at Maracana’

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South American football expert Tim Vickery witnessed crowd trouble at the Maracana and believes the lack of fan segregation and ‘greed’ were factors in the disorder at the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina

Tim Vickery speaking from Rio de Janeiro following Brazil’s loss to Argentina:

“I was sat on the halfway line. None of us saw the skirmishes during the national anthems, but the real problem here is the absolute absence of fan segregation.

“Argentina’s fans were sat right next to Brazil’s organised group of supporters. Fan segregation in South America is absolutely normal.

“I wonder if people got greedy and thought, ‘let’s try and sell every seat and put fans together’. That was a risk. Brazil’s fan groups had warned about that risk before the game.

“The police then waded in with a baton charge on the Argentinian fans. This was brutal, it was dangerous. The Argentina fans reacted by throwing seats at the police.

“The Argentina players then see that their compatriots in the stands are on the end of this police treatment – Lionel Messi and the Argentina team take the decision to walk off the field. We wondered if we’d even get to kick-off, but fortunately things calmed down.

“The stewards came and formed a human shield between the two groups of fans.”

Messi: They were beating people – but this is one of our most important wins

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

“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 like this I think is one of the most important wins that this group has achieved. It is something very nice to be able to win here in Brazil, after how strong they have been at home throughout their history.”

How the match played out…

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

Brazil were arguably the better side and almost scored from a corner just before halftime through a Gabriel Martinelli strike that defender Christian Romero cleared off the goal line.

Argentina's Lionel Messi embraces goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez as they celebrate their team's 1-0 victory over Brazil
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Argentina’s Lionel Messi embraces goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez as they celebrate their team’s 1-0 victory over Brazil

Despite being without key players like Vinicius Jr and Neymar because of injuries and losing their captain Marquinhos to a leg issue halfway throughout the game, Brazil kept up the pressure after the break.

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

Brazil booed by own fans

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

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 Brazilian fans unloaded their frustration on the team, screaming “Ole! Ole! Ole!” as Argentina passed the ball around in the last few minutes, an attitude that angered caretaker manager Fernando Diniz.

“The fans have the right to do what they want,” Diniz, who who was roundly booed at the final whistle, told a press conference.

“The fans are passionate and want to win, so they have the right to boo, but I think shouting “Ole” to Argentina is a bit much.”

World Cup-winning head coach Scaloni considers ending Argentina role

Argentina went from ecstasy to shock after the game when their World Cup-winning manager Lionel Scaloni made the stunning admission that he was contemplating walking away from the job.

“Argentina needs a coach who has all the energy possible and who is well,” Scaloni, who took no questions, said in his opening remarks at his press conference.

“I need to stop the ball and start thinking, I have a lot of things to think about during this time.”

Messi’s World Cup Argentina shirts set to break auction record

Football shirts worn by Lionel Messi during Argentina’s winning run at the World Cup in 2022 are set to go under the hammer – and are predicted to become the most valuable collection of sports memorabilia ever to sell at auction.

Sotheby’s estimates the six shirts worn by the Argentina captain in Qatar, including during the final against France in December 2022, could fetch more than $10m (£8m).

Argentina won the final – and the country’s third World Cup – in a penalty shootout victory over France after a 3-3 draw in which Messi scored two goals.

The 36-year-old shared news of the auction on social media, announcing a portion of the proceeds would be donated to the Unicas Project, led by the Sant Joan de Deu Barcelona Children’s Hospital, for children suffering from rare diseases.

Lionel Messi celebrates his second and Argentina's third goal in the World Cup final against France
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Messi won the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament in Qatar

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1m (£8.1m) at Sotheby’s in New York in September 2022, holds the current record for a game-worn item of sports memorabilia.

In terms of football memorabilia specifically, the current record for a game-worn item is $9.3m (£7.4m), also in 2022, and comes courtesy of another famous Argentinian – the shirt worn by Diego Maradona during the 1986 quarter-final 2-1 victory over England, during which he scored his infamous “Hand of God” goal.

Maradona's shirt at auction
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Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ shirt sold for £7.4m at auction in 2022

Sotheby’s will put Messi’s shirts up for auction between November 30 and December 14 and they will be on view during these dates at its headquarters in New York as part of a free public exhibition.

The auction house is working with US-based tech start-up AC Momento, which partners with high-profile athletes to help manage their match-worn memorabilia.

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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Messi scored seven goals on the way to World Cup glory

Messi, who currently plays in the MLS in the US for Inter Miami, the club part-owned by David Beckham, spent 17 years at Barcelona, winning LaLiga numerous occasions and the Champions League four times.

He has won the Ballon d’Or, which is presented annually to the game’s top player, a record eight times.

Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of modern collectibles, described Argentina’s World Cup win as “one of the greatest events in sports history, intrinsically connected to Messi’s valiant journey”.