There was a 30-minute delay in the kickoff of the Brazil vs Argentina FIFA World Cup qualifier match due to clashes among rival supporters in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The much-anticipated blockbuster between South American football’s two superpowers was due to kick off at 6 AM (IST) but was held up after disturbances in the stands.
The Brazil and Argentina players had lined up for their respective national anthems when the cameras turned towards the stands where a section of Brazil and Argentina fans were seen exchanging blows. The footballers on the pitch appeared to be quite shocked by the disturbing visuals.
Scenes started to look uglier as police moved in to quell the crowd trouble and resorted to a lathi charge. The local police could be seen beating back Argentina fans at one end of the ground with batons. This obviously did not go down well with Lionel Messi-led Argentina side.
Messi was seen pointing towards the scuffle and having a word with the match officials before deciding to walk off the pitch with the rest of the teammates.
“We’re not playing, we’re leaving,” Messi appeared to say as he left the pitch with his team-mates.
Argentina’s players re-emerged onto the field shortly and the match started at 6:30 AM (IST).
Many Argentinians believe that the pursuit of their country’s latest World Cup title started for real more than two years ago at Maracana Stadium.
That’s where Ángel di Maria and Lionel Messi helped end the team’s 28-year trophyless streak with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the Copa America final.
Both teams are playing after defeats in the previous round of qualifying; the locals lost 2-1 at Colombia, and the World Cup champions were defeated at home 2-0 by Uruguay.
Argentina leads the 10-team South American qualifying group with 12 points through five matches. Uruguay is second with 10 points. Colombia has nine and Venezuela eight. Brazil will host the World Cup champions in fifth position, with seven points.
Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile have five points each. Bolivia has three and Peru has one.
The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will include 48 teams, meaning direct entry for the top six teams from South America. The seventh-place team can earn a berth in an intercontinental playoff.
(With agency inputs)