November 22 – Brazil’s nightmare World Cup qualifying campaign took a turn for the worse with a 1-0 defeat against rivals Argentina on home soil in a match overshadowed by brawling fans.
Argentina and Lionel Messi returned to the dressing room following fighting in the stands, leading to a delay of 27 minutes before the World Cup qualifier at Rio De Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
After the national anthems played – the Argentina one being booed – police intervened to break up fights near the Argentina section. They used batons to separate battling fans, an action that was defended by police authorities who blamed the organisation for the lack of a barrier between home and visiting fans.
“Every action demands a reaction. There is a history of confrontation here. At first we spoke to them. Then, we had to use our batons. There was no lethal force involved, no rubber bullets, no tear gas. This was a very technical approach,” Colonel Vagner Ferreira told TV channel SporTV.
The local police were not responsible for the sale of tickets, but the Confederation of Brazilian Football (CBF) sold all 69,000 tickets for the match, meaning that there was no proper segregation between the fans. Two weeks ago, the Maracana hosted the Copa Libertadores final with fan fights in downtown Rio de Janeiro in the days leading up to the match.
Messi gave his own version of events after the match. He said: “There was family of the players (there). We were more worried about that than playing the match.
“We did that (going to the locker room) because that was the way to make it all calm. From below, we couldn’t do much, we saw how they (police) hit people.”
Argentina went on to win 1-0 following a header by Nicolas Otamendi, inflicting a third straight defeat on Brazil and the country’s first-ever home loss in a World Cup qualifier.
“The truth is that this group continues to achieve historic things, once again,” said Messi.
The five-time world champions drop to sixth place in Conmebol World Cup qualifying with seven points from six matches, their worst start in World Cup qualifying ever.
It was also Fernando Diniz’s last official match as interim coach. He will still lead Brazil in March in international friendlies against England and Spain before Carlo Ancelotti will reportedly take over in time for the 2024 Copa America.
Brazil however hardly run the risk of not making the next World Cup. In 2026, the global finals will feature 48 teams for the first time and Conmebol has 6 direct slots as well as one slot for the inter-confederation playoff. Brazil are the only country to have played in all 22 World Cups.
In Conmebol it is now harder not to qualify than actually qualify.
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