World Cup winner slams 2026 World Cup venue's conditions after Argentina's win

Argentina v Canada - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024
Argentina v Canada - CONMEBOL Copa America USA 2024 / Omar Vega/GettyImages

Emiliano Martinez has criticised the pitch conditions at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta following Argentina's 2-0 victory against Canada in their Copa America 2024 opener.

Despite the defending World Cup and Copa America champions securing the win with goals from Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez, the focus quickly shifted to the state of the playing surface.

Martinez, who made two crucial saves during the match, described the pitch as a "disaster" and "very bumpy." He emphasised the need for improvement, stating,

"We must improve in this aspect; otherwise, Copa America will always appear at a lower level than the European Championship."

Argentina's manager, Lionel Scaloni, echoed Martinez's concerns, expressing his disappointment with the organisation's lack of adequate planning. Scaloni commented,

"The weird thing is we knew months ago we'd play here, so maybe things could've been done about the pitch quicker. It's not an excuse, but this isn't a good field. Sincerely, the field is not apt for these players."

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and MLS side Atlanta United FC, typically features a synthetic surface. However, at CONMEBOL's request, the stadium installed a temporary grass surface just days before the tournament's commencement.

The rushed installation appears to have resulted in subpar conditions, drawing criticism not only from the Argentine team but also from Canada defender Kamal Miller, who compared the surface to "walking on a stage."

Emiliano Martinez, Lautaro Martinez
Emi Martinez / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

Despite the pitch issues, Argentina managed to secure the top spot in Group A with their opening win. They are set to face Chile at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Tuesday, while Canada will take on Peru at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City on the same day.

The criticism of the playing surface at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium raises questions about the venue's readiness to host eight games during the 2026 World Cup, including a semifinal. As the tournament progresses, it remains to be seen whether the pitch conditions will improve or continue to be a point of contention for the participating teams.

Martinez's remarks have highlighted the importance of providing top-quality playing surfaces for international tournaments, ensuring that the focus remains on the football rather than the field.

The suboptimal pitch conditions have not only drawn criticism from players and managers but have also sparked discussions about the overall organisation and planning of the tournament. With the Copa America being one of the most prestigious football competitions in the world, the expectations for top-notch facilities and playing surfaces are high.

The organisers will be under pressure to address the concerns raised by the players and ensure that the remaining matches are played on surfaces that meet international standards.