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Messi lashes out at Brazilian police following Maracana clashes

Argentina’s Lionel Messi criticised Brazilian police after a fractious World Cup qualifier between the sides in Rio de Janeiro.

The match was delayed by half an hour after fighting broke out during the national anthems with police wading in with batons to try to restore calm.

Messi led the Argentina players over to aid the situation but, having seen the clashes at close quarters, felt the police had overstepped the mark. He then led his players off the field.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “It was bad because we saw how they were beating people. The police, as it happened in the Libertadores final, were once again repressing the people with sticks. There were players who had families over there.

“We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy.

“You think about the families, the people who are there, who don’t know what’s going on and we were more concerned about that than playing a match that, at that point, was of secondary importance.”

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The violence occurred just over two weeks after fan clashes before the Copa Libertadores final between Brazil’s Fluminense and Argentina’s Boca Juniors in a game also staged at Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium.

When the action did get underway last night it resulted in a wonderful win for Argentina, who handed Brazil their first ever World Cup qualifying defeat at home courtesy of Nicolas Otamendi’s second-half header.

A night of disappointment for Brazil, who have now lost three qualifiers on the bounce, was compounded by the late dismissal of midfielder Joelinton.


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