Lionel Messi hits back at Brazil star Rodrygo for calling Argentina ‘cowards’ over walk-off
There were ugly scenes both in the stands and on the pitch.
Lionel Messi collared Brazil winger Rodrygo after he accused Argentina of being ‘cowards’ for walking off the pitch in response to their supporters being attacked by police on Tuesday night.
There were incredibly ugly scenes at the Maracana before the World Cup qualifier kicked off, with police charging at the visiting supporters during the Brazilian national anthem.
A number of fans were left bloodied and bruised and required medical assistance, with the Argentina players rushing over to the away end to try and quell the tension.
At one point, Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez was even seen trying to grab a baton out of the hand of one of the policemen, and Messi ultimately decided to lead his players off the pitch and back to the dressing room.
As he left the field, the Ballon d’Or winner could be seen telling officials: ‘We’re leaving. We can’t play in these circumstances.’
After a lengthy delay, Argentina’s players re-emerged but the heated atmosphere had now spilled over onto the pitch, with Real Madrid star Rodrygo arguing with Atletico’s Rodrigo De Paul over the decision to return to the dressing room.
Messi came over to intervene, but things only escalated further with Argentine broadcaster TyC Sports claiming Rodrygo branded the Argentina team ‘cowards’.
The Inter Miami playmaker then grabbed Rodrygo round the back of the neck and exchanged angry words, apparently saying: ‘We are the world champions! Why are we cowards? Watch your mouth.’
As Messi went to walk off, Rodrygo tried to continue the row but was guided away by De Paul before a number of other players and staff got involved, with Tottenham trio Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Emerson Royal acting as peacemakers.
When the match eventually kicked off it was a heated and fiery affair, with Nicolas Otamendi bagging the game’s only goal and Joelinton sent off for lashing out at De Paul.
Incredibly, Argentina’s 1-0 win was the first time Brazil have ever lost a World Cup qualifier at home while it is also their third straight defeat, leaving them in sixth place in the table – eight points adrift of leaders Argentina.
Speaking about the unsavoury scenes in the stands and the decision to walk off the field, Messi told reporters afterwards: ‘We saw how the police were hitting people, also with some of our families here too.
‘It also happened already in the Libertadores final here too [between Argentine side Boca Juniors and Brazilian side Fluminense]. They are more focused on that than on playing the game.
‘We are a family. We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, a tragedy could have happened today.’
To add even more drama to the evening, manager Lionel Scaloni – who guided the side to glory at the World Cup in Qatar a year ago – revealed afterwards that he was considering stepping down as manager in a revelation that stunned the Argentina squad.
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