Outrage after Argentina defender leaves Brazil rival bloodied as Messi & Co seal World Cup spot (VIDEO)
Fans reacted angrily after Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi left Brazilian rival Raphinha floored during a heated World Cup qualifier as Lionel Messi and Co booked their tickets to the Qatar showpiece next year.
As opposed to River Plate's iconic El Monumental where La Albiceleste famously won the 1978 edition of the tournament, the match took place at the much smaller Estadio del Bicentenario in San Juan.
Getting behind their men, though, a crowd of 25,000 were still raucous and tried to unease their cross-border visitors from the get go.
His side playing without Neymar, a Vinicius Jr currently regarded as the best in-form Brazilian in Europe was charged with leading the attack and was immediately involved in a confrontation with Nicolas Otamendi.
Barging by him when the Real Madrid forward protested with the referee, this was light compared to what followed next from the ex-Manchester City defender, though.
Cotovelada no rosto do Raphinha, que sangra. Na cara dura Otamendi ainda arranca o brasileiro do chão. O moço de preto? Nada. VAR? Segue o jogo. pic.twitter.com/eCfINRvg4k— ge (@geglobo) November 17, 2021
Over on the right flank while tussling for the ball with the breakout Leeds United star, the veteran let off an elbow smash into Raphinha for which he wasn't even booked.
To make matters worse, as the winger writhed on the floor with a bloody mouth, the Benfica center-back picked up his victim and put him back on his feet.
In Brazil, the incident caused outrage with Globoesporte commentator Galvao Bueno labeling it an "embarrassment" and questioning why VAR existed.
"It is simply impossible not to see the elbow of Otamendi to Raphinha," scathed Brazil manager Tite after.
"Did it influence the outcome? I don't know," he continued.
"[But] high level VAR referees cannot work that way. They cannot. It is inconceivable. And inconceivable is not the term I want to use, but I say it that way because I am polite," Tite concluded.
Back in the match itself, there was at least some of the mind-bending skill on show that makes the Superclasico what it is.
Approaching half-time, Angel Di Maria sent Vinicius Jr to the shops with a sublime nutmeg that went viral and has already been seen more than 3 million times.
A bag of tricks himself, though, and not to be outdone, the ex-Flamengo product responded in the second half with a rainbow flick that was just as jaw-dropping.
Cá entre nós, não deve ser muito fácil a vida dos haters de Vini Jr... O que foi isso... pic.twitter.com/RjcyVccWf2— ge (@geglobo) November 17, 2021
Fed up of system players taught from academy level to suppress their expressive instincts, fans on social media gushed that "football art", as it is known in Brazil, is still alive and well.
The tie ended goalless, however, with Messi blasted online for a pretty anonymous display and unhappy that his team couldn't get the win.
That’s now 7 competitive games for Messi vs Brazil, without a single goal or assist.— AllThingsSeleção ™ (@SelecaoTalk) November 17, 2021
"We always knew we could win," Messi said post-match.
"We were convinced from the beginning, and we tried to play but at times we couldn't.
"But the important thing is that we didn't lose either, we keep going and we keep growing.
Leo Messi to @TyCSports: "I am feeling good, otherwise I wouldn't have played this game, but I still need more rhythm especially for a game like this. I didn't start a game for a while. It's important that we didn't lose and hopefully we can qualify in our next game." pic.twitter.com/xxBHhNSVz9— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) November 17, 2021
His club PSG furious that he had been called up when missing their last two games due to a mix of knee and hamstring problems, the 34-year-old also provided an update on his condition.
"I haven't played for a long time. It was a very intense game and I need to find my rhythm. I'm fine, obviously not physically though," he said.
"I've been standing still for a long time and it's not easy to just play a game that has so much pace immediately. Thankfully I'm fine, I'm hoping to end the year well now."
Another World Cup is going to feature Lionel Messi 🥰 pic.twitter.com/6DJNM3KPSV— GOAL (@goal) November 17, 2021
Finally landing a major trophy with his country on Brazilian soil this summer, Messi could do this by adding a much-tipped seventh Ballon d'Or to his personal collection next month.
In the meantime, Argentina, now unbeaten in 27 matches, have guaranteed passage to Qatar thanks to other results in the CONMEBOL qualifying group last night.
And it goes without saying that victory in their 13th straight appearance at the competition would complete Messi's trophy cabinet for once and for all.