Lionel Messi

Argentina beats Brazil 1-0 in cagey 2026 World Cup qualifier

Nicolas Otamendi scored the lone goal in the 63rd minute

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Argentina pulled off a classic snatch-and-grab win versus Brazil at the Maracana on Tuesday.

Despite not creating chances and having just one shot on target prior to the final minute of stoppage time, La Albiceleste turned that one shot into a goal to beat Brazil 1-0 in 2026 World Cup qualifying action.

The beginning of the game was mired by drama, with Brazilian police getting into it with Argentine supporters in the stands amid brawls with Brazilian fans. There was a 27-minute delay before play began, and fouls between both sides became a prevalent theme.

Argentine center back Nicolas Otamendi opened the scoring in the 63rd minute when he headed in Giovani Lo Celso's corner kick from the left flank.

Brazil finished the game logging eight shots total with four on target, but Argentine goalie Emiliano Martinez did well to make crucial saves and claim high crosses.

Perhaps Brazil's best chance came in the 58th minute prior to Otamendi's goal. Striker Gabriel Jesus broke out past the Argentine defense and the ball eventually fell to club teammate Gabriel Martinelli inside the box, but the Arsenal forward had his shot saved.

Brazil's hopes of equalizing took a big dent in the 81st minute when substitute midfielder Joelinton was red carded quite controversially. He pushed off Argentine midfielder Rodrigo de Paul for holding onto his arm while trying to dribble.

But fouls dominated the game. Brazil had been called for 26 offences while Argentina had just 16.

Lionel Messi played 78 minutes before coming off. He needed medical attention a few times with discomfort before ultimately being substituted after a quiet showing.

With the result, Argentina remains atop the Conmebol World Cup qualifying standings with 15 points. Brazil, meanwhile, are struggling, sitting in sixth place with just seven points.

Six teams will automatically qualify for the 2026 tournament since there will be 48 teams this time, but the Seleção, who are dealing with injuries to key players like Neymar Jr. and Vinicius Jr., haven't displayed the same performances they've been known for.

New manager Fernando Diniz will have time to figure things out with the next international break in March of 2024, but it hasn't been a pretty run of late. The Seleção had also lost to Colombia 2-1 on Thursday despite Martinelli's opening goal.

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