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.”

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