Argentina slams Mercedes-Benz pitch: Better that we won

The Argentina national team slammed the pitch at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the inaugural match of the 2024 Copa América, with goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez calling the newly-installed grass surface a “disaster” and manager Lionel Scaloni saying it was “better that we won.”

“The state of the pitch was a disaster. Very bumpy. We must improve in this aspect, otherwise, Copa América will always appear at a lower level than the European Championship,” said the Aston Villa goalkeeper.

La Albiceleste triumphed 2-0 over Canada on Thursday night as goals from Julián Álvarez and Lautaro Martínez secured the team the top spot in the Group A standings. But manager Lionel Scaloni used the victory as an opportunity to call out the conditions at the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons — a synthetic surface that was covered with natural grass two days ago — criticizing the organization’s poor planning.

“The game was like that of Saudi Arabia in the World Cup, except that one had a good pitch,” Scaloni said, referencing his team’s opening game loss in Qatar in 2022. “Better that we won, or else it would have appeared as an excuse, but they knew seven months ago that we’d play here and they changed the field two days ago. It’s not an excuse, but this isn’t a good field. Sincerely, the field is not apt for these players.

“We gave not necessarily a good game, but a game according to the pitch and what the rival proposed. We couldn’t do much more with the conditions of the pitch. Look at the speed of the passes that we did.”

In addition to the Falcons, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is also the home of MLS side Atlanta United FC — both teams play on the artificial surface. At Conmebol’s request, the stadium put in grass for the tournament.

When Atlanta United faced the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, the venue still had an artificial surface.

“Two days ago it was fake, and then they parched panels of grass together. It’s painted to appear nicer than it is,” Scaloni said. “The weird thing is we knew months ago we’d play here, so maybe things could’ve been done about the pitch quicker.”

Next up for Argentina in Group A is a match against Chile at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 before finishing round-robin play against Peru on June 29.