Nicolas Otamendi’s fine header in the second half gave Argentina a 1-0 win over archrivals Brazil in the South American World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday evening. The kick off was delayed at the Maracana by over half an hour after the Brazilian authorities baton-ed a section of Argentina fans. The visitors stormed out of the pitch led by captain Lionel Messi as play resumed only after calmness had ensured.
Neither side could garner any sort of momentum in the first half with persistent fouling by the Brazilian players. The hosts did come close to opening the score but were denied by Cristiano Romero late in the first half as the Tottenham Hotspur defender kept out Gabriel Martinelli’s shot off the line.
It was a much better watch in the second half as both sides looked to seize the initiative. After Emiliano Martinez kept out Martinelli one-on-one, Otamendi scored a stunning header in the 63rd minute from Giovani Lo Celso’s corner. Brazil were then reduced to ten men in the 81st minutes as Argentina once again grabbed the victory in front of the packed Maracana. The result means the World Champions are back at the top of the qualification table with 15 points from 6 games while Brazil dropped to sixth, out of automatic qualification.
As it happened
You can follow along here for live updates as Brazil hosts Argentina in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. Both sides enter this game after losses in matchday five. Argentina lost at home to Uruguay, 2-0. It was Argentina’s first loss since losing to Saudi Arabia in the first game at the 2022 World Cup. Moreover, it was the first time Argentina conceded since the 2022 World Cup Final against France.
For Brazil, this is almost a must-win game despite being at the one-third mark in qualifying. After picking up one point from its last three games, Brazil slumped to fifth in the qualifying table. Its most recent loss was against Colombia in a game that Brazil took the lead just five minutes in.
Live: Brazil and Argentina look for bounce-back results
Any time these two sides meet, fireworks transpire. Unfortunately, they only met one time during qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. In a frankly bizarre incident, health officials in Brazil ran out on the field as the game against Argentina started. Referees suspended the game. However, with both nations through, the game never happened.
This time around, Brazil needs this game to go on as planned. After two wins to open its qualifying account, Brazil has struggled mightily in its last three games. Losses on the road against Uruguay and Colombia followed a draw at home to Venezuela. Throughout those games, Brazil has battled key injuries. Neymar may miss the 2024 Copa America and all games beforehand with a torn ACL from the Uruguay game. Casemiro remains sidelined, which has led to goals pouring in. Gabriel Jesus and Vinicius are also battling injuries. They will not be present for the game against Argentina.
The defending World Cup champions have not had those same injury problems. Prior to the loss at La Bombonera against Uruguay, Argentina was cruising through qualifying. Four wins from its first four games led to no goals against. At the same time, Argentina comfortably defeated its opposition. A win at Brazil would not only reaffirm its spot at the top of the table. It would deal a blow to its biggest rivals, potentially sinking them into a spot that would not automatically qualify.
Source: World Soccer Talk