Messi, the World Cup champion and Inter Miami star, was held scoreless and appeared to reinjure his right leg in his final match of 2023. But his side was still victorious.
Nicolás Otamendi scored a header in the 64th minute to lead Argentina past Brazil 1-0 in a 2026 World Cup qualifying match Tuesday night at the iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
It was an eventful outing at the Maracanã, where Messi and Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup to Germany, but won the 2021 Copa America.
Argentina handed Brazil its first ever home loss in a World Cup qualifying match in what could have been Messi’s final match at the historic Brazilian venue, despite fighting in the stands that caused a delay.
"We needed this victory after the defeat against Uruguay,” Messi said after the match."We knew it was going to be a tough game, similar to the one in the Copa América final. They pressed a lot, they went to look for us high up and it was difficult for us to have long possessions. These games are defined by details."
Messi entered the match as the all-time leader with 31 goals scored in CONMEBOL action, but without a goal against Brazil. He was unable to change that distinction in 77 minutes, leaving the match as a substitute.
Messi appeared to injure his right leg in the first half against Brazil. He had his right quadricep evaluated by a trainer on the sideline during the 28th minute of the match, but remained in the game.
It’s unclear whether the injury caused Messi – who was slowed by a similar right leg injury that kept him out of six Inter Miami matches and a qualifier in September – to leave the match early.
"Leo is the only player in the world who can be on the field in the conditions he played today. He did it to the best of his ability and gave the team a hand,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said in his postgame presser.
Messi said he "felt injured at the beginning of the match, but I coped with it. It's not (severe), and I hope to come back stronger.”
The match was delayed by at least 25 minutes due to fighting in the stands. Messi and his Argentine teammates jumped over a partition to go toward a section where fighting fans were mediated by police before the match.
Messi led his Argentine team back into the locker room as the ruckus subsided, and the match slated for a 7:30 p.m. ET start began shortly after 7:55 p.m. ET.
Source: USA Today
BDST: 0955 HRS, NOV 22, 2023