Friday, 20 October, 2017

Messi in esteemed company if Argentina fail to make the World Cup

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Clarence Duncan | 11 October, 2017, 00:19

A draw would also be good enough if Argentina wins, or Chile loses in Brazil.

They need a win to have a chance of securing one of the four automatic qualification spots for next summer's tournament in Russian Federation.

The eyes of the football world will turn to Quito's Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa to see if the once unthinkable prospect of a World Cup without Messi is to become a stunning reality.

Lionel Messi and Argentina's hopes of reaching the World Cup automatically could depend on Neymar's Brazil defeating Chile in their final qualifer on Tuesday night.

South American leaders Brazil, meanwhile, are already assured of a berth at next year's World Cup and there are suggestions the Selecao - with nothing to play for against hopefuls Chile in Sao Paulo - could deliberately harm Argentina's chances, but Tite insisted that is not the case.

In a worst-case scenario, Uruguay could lose to Bolivia and have Chile beat Brazil, Argentina beat Ecuador and have a victor in the Colombia-Peru matchup.

The meeting in Lima between Peru and Colombia, which could result in both, one or neither team advancing, will be particularly captivating, but there's no doubt about the biggest story on the continent: the strong possibility that Messi and Argentina ― who were beaten finalists against Germany in 2014 ― will miss out.

A draw will do if Brazil beat Chile by more than one goal and if Argentina draw and Paraguay fail to win. A draw would be good enough for a playoff spot if Argentina wins, and there is a victor in the Peru-Colombia match.

"If everyone is at Messi's level against Ecuador, we will qualify", he said on Monday.

In a match that encapsulates all the rising tension of the last few matchdays, fourth-placed Colombia, who have 26 points to their name, travel to fifth-placed Peru, who lie a point behind them. "In case of Playoffs, we strongly believe that Argentina have got what it takes to beat New Zealand in two-legged tie". Peru also have a chance even if they draw or lose. The Lionel Messi-led side needs a win and that will guarantee a play-off place.

Ecuador won 2-0 the last time the sides met earlier in qualification, in Argentina, and the last time tonight's visitors won in Ecuador was in 2001!

On that occasion, Argentina tried a frenetic counter-attacking style that played in to the hands of the hosts.

With a draw, Chile would be on 27 points, which could be passed by a Colombia-Peru victor and Argentina and tied by Paraguay, which would need to make up seven goals in goal differential. Therefore, winning against Ecuador is imperative if they want to keep themselves alive. They need favours from everywhere.

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