Lionel Messi had a savage response for Brazil star Rodrygo after he'd labelled the Argentina legend a "coward".

Tensions were high before the clash of South America's two best footballing nations on Tuesday (November 21), with trouble in the stands causing kick-off to be delayed. The Brazilian police clashed with the travelling Argentina supporters.

Emi Martinez tried to intervene and take a baton away from one officer before captain Messi ordered his team to leave the pitch and head to the Maracana dressing room in protest. When they did return, Rodrygo and Rodrigo De Paul came face-to-face.

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According to TyC Sports, the Real Madrid winger, 22, was calling Atletico Madrid midfielder De Paul, 29, and his Argentina team-mates cowards for their actions.

Messi, 36, quickly approached him and is claimed to have said: "We are the world champions, why are we cowards? Watch your mouth."

Once the match did get underway, it was the reigning world champions who came out on top thanks to Nicolas Otamendi's second-half header. Joelinton was sent off nine minutes from time for the hosts, who lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time.

Should Rodrygo have more respect for Messi? Let us know in the comments section.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi and midfielder Rodrigo De Paul argue with Brazil's forward Rodrygo
Messi is said to have reminded Rodrygo of their Qatar 2022 triumph after being called a coward

Speaking afterwards, Messi explained he was fearful there "could have been a tragedy" pre-match in the away section, which was also housing the players' friends and family.

"It was bad because we saw how they were beating people," said Messi. "The police, as happened in the Libertadores final, were once again repressing the people with night sticks.

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

Emi Martinez and his Argentina team-mates try to defend fans as trouble flares ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Brazil
There was trouble in the stands before the 2026 World Cup qualifier
Players of Argentina observe the fight between Argentina fans and local police during FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina at Maracana Stadium on November 21, 2023
Messi led his side off the pitch, with kick-off delayed before they went on to win 1-0

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"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."

Brazil skipper Marquinhos, who tried to help the Argentina players calm the situation, added: "We were worried about the families, women and children, that we were seeing in panic up there in the stands.

"Down on the pitch it was hard for us to understand what was going on, it was a very scary situation."