Brazil 0 Argentina 1: Messi and co inflict first EVER home World Cup qualifying defeat on hosts as Otamendi nets winner | The Sun
NICOLAS OTAMENDI rose highest to inflict Brazil's first ever home World Cup qualifying defeat as Argentina soared to the top of the group.
The hosts went into the match already on the back foot, having now lost three qualifiers in a row for the first time.
The game was delayed by 27 minutes due to clashes between police and fans in the stands as players lined up for the national anthems.
Lionel Messi led his Argentina team over to try to stop the violence.
Emiliano Martinez even attempted to climb in at one point in a bid to prevent cops from whacking supporters with batons.
Argentina returned to the dressing room for more than ten minutes before re-emerging and getting the game underway.
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Brazil lined up with Raphinha, Rodrygo, and Arsenal duo Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli in attack as they aimed to stop the rot.
They struggled to create, but did come close via Raphinha's free-kick.
Tottenham star Cristian Romero, in action for the first time since his red card against Chelsea, then cleared a Martinelli effort off the line.
Messi, 36, was not at his sparkling best at the Maracana – struggling to get involved in proceedings on his 180th appearance for his country.
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Despite looking sluggish, the visitors took a 63rd minute lead through Otamendi.
The former Manchester City star leapt above Gabriel Magalhaes to head home what turned out to be Argentina's winner.
Brazil tried to rally, but substitute Joelinton's 81st minute red card did not help matters.
The Newcastle ace was grabbed by Rodrigo De Paul as he was running, before lashing out at the Atletico Madrid midfielder.
After the game, much of Messi's focus was taken by the plight of the fans ahead of kick-off.
He said: "The truth is that this group continues to achieve historic things, once again.
"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."
World Cup-winning coach Lionel Scaloni then failed to confirm whether he'd be staying on in the role.
He said: "I have to think a lot about what to do with my future.
“This group demands you permanently, you have to have maximum energy.
"It's not a goodbye but the bar is very high. The team needs a coach who has all possible energy."
Romero called on the boss to stay on, saying: "We are sure and hope that Scaloni will continue. Let’s see now he will have time to think.
"We will try to convince him. He did not say anything in the locker room about that. For me, he will continue. Let’s see."
Argentina's win sees them top the ten-team qualifying group after six games, already eight points above sixth-placed Brazil.
The teams will meet again for the reverse fixture in March 2025.
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