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Brawling fans in stands delay start of Argentina-Brazil World Cup qualifying match for 27 minutes

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/Bruna Prado)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A brawl between fans at Rio’s Maracana Stadium delayed the start of the South American World Cup qualifying match between Argentina and Brazil on Tuesday night for 27 minutes.

Policemen on the scene were using batons to break up the fights between supporters of both teams, with parts of seats flying around and hitting some of the spectators behind one of the goals. At least one fan left the stadium bleeding from his head.

Argentina players asked those in the stand for calm before heading to the dressing room. Goalkeeper Dibu Martinez raced to one of the rails in front of the Argentina fans to ask policemen to stop the violence.

Argentina told their Brazil rivals they would only return to the pitch after the situation was calm. They returned after 22 minutes in the dressing room, and warmed up for another three minutes before the game was finally started.

As the match began, dozens of policemen surrounded Argentina fans as they cheered, and even more security faced them on the pitch. Policemen gathered around the section that can hold about 3,000 fans.

All 69,000 tickets for the match in Rio de Janeiro were sold. Brazil fans, who jeered and applauded Lionel Messi before the brawl began, chanted against him when he returned to the pitch.

Brazil players remained on the pitch and warmed up while waiting for their rival Argentina team to return.

Before the encounter, many Brazil fans warmed up to the Argentine star, with dozens of children wearing Messi jerseys of his previous club, Barcelona, and Inter Miami.

Argentina leads South American World Cup qualifying with 12 points in five matches. Brazil is in fifth position. Both teams lost their previous games in the round-robin competition of 10 teams.


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Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press

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