On Tuesday night Lionel Messi will lead out his team of World Cup champions at the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro as Argentina take on hosts Brazil in Matchday six of South American FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying.
It’s perhaps the most romantic head-to-head clash in global football history, but Tuesday night’s encounter between these two iconic football nations will be hostile, intense and anything but loving.
The last time Argentina made the trip to the Maracanã was for the Copa America Final in July 2021. Unfortunately this occasion couldn’t be enjoyed by football fans as it should have been. Amidst the global pandemic a reduced crowd of under 8,000 fans watched the first continental final between these two great sides since 2007, when Brazil won 3-0.
In 2021 the result was different and Lionel Messi finally won his first major trophy with Argentina thanks to a clinical strike from Ángel Di María. Argentina’s squad triumphed after spending well over a month of quarantine together to prepare for the tournament. The fact that they were forced to live in such close quarters ended up creating an unbreakable team spirit that led to both the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup titles.
Meanwhile for hosts Brazil; a final that was set to bring joy to the nation turned out to be a national embarrassment. Just like when they were thrashed by Germany (albeit not to nearly the same extent) at the 2014 World Cup, anything less than a home victory is unacceptable for the country that believes itself to be the true home of football.
Everything is on the line when Brazil play Argentina and in this continent of proud nations bragging rights are of the utmost importance. Brazil will feel they owe their visitors one and the home fans will be raucous this Tuesday night, as they finally have the opportunity to cheer on their side against Messi at the Maracanā.
The tie has added spice as both teams come in on the back of a loss. Brazil were beaten 2-1 in Colombia last time out and Argentina were defeated 2-0 at home to neighbours Uruguay. Lionel Messi looked furious and frustrated as his side failed to break down a solid Marcelo Bielsa set-up despite having a 100% record in their precious games. Brazil, on the other hand, have been feeling the pressure for a while now.
The home side have just three wins in nine games in a horrible run that has seen them lose to Senegal and Morocco and even draw at home to low ranking Venezuela in qualifying last month. Star players like Neymar and Vinicius Jr are injured and Brazil currently sit in fifth place in the qualifying table with Argentina leading the pack.
Interim Brazil manager Fernando Deniz has the extremely rare task of coaching Brazil at home on Tuesday night and then taking charge of his club side Fluminense in the domestic league on Wednesday. Despite pressure mounting on the popular coach he will take plenty of positives from their trip to Colombia. In truth Brazil might have put the game to bed when they were 1-0 up before two sucker-punches from Luis Díaz turned the tie on its head.
On the other hand World Cup holders Argentina didn’t ever look like winning their home game against a fantastic Uruguay performance. If Messi and his team do lose in Brazil this week it would be interesting to see what effect it could have on a side that have been so confident in their abilities for a few years now and haven’t faced back-to-back defeats since way back in 2016.
Let’s not forget that in a matter of months these two teams will go to the 2024 Copa America in the United States as the two hot favourites for the title. Tuesday’s clash is a qualifier for the 2026 World Cup of course, and vital points are up for grabs. However, both teams might be more worried about marking their dominance on the other ahead of the upcoming tournament, than actually worrying about qualifying for a World Cup that is still three years away. After all, this is only matchday six of 18 and both sides are bound to qualify comfortably.
Despite Uruguay’s counter attacking style clearly proving the perfect tactic to take on Argentina; Brazil wouldn’t dream of sitting back to soak up pressure whilst playing on their home turf. Instead they will play ‘Dinizball,’ a risky but rewarding passing style of football, from the goalkeeper all the way up to the forward line. This will suit Argentina more than facing a deep defence, and hopefully for the neutral it means an open and exciting game of top quality attacking football.
Not since 2015 have both sides scored in this fixture, on such evidence the first goal in this game is of paramount importance. Messi will be eager to return to form but Brazil have a real point to prove themselves. There is no doubt a few yellow cards will be handed out as both sides will do what they believe is necessary in order to win this game.
Also in action on Tuesday night are the other eight sides involved in CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying. The following fixtures complete the matchday six schedule:
Paraguay V Colombia
Ecuador V Chile
Uruguay V Bolivia
Peru V Venezuela
Stay tuned for Wednesday’s review of Brazil’s titanic clash with Argentina on Tuesday night, as well as a look back at all of the other South American fixtures.