RUSSIA 2018: World Cup Without Messi Looms
LIONEL Messi and Argentina’s hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup were left hanging in the balance on Thursday after another stalemate on a nail-biting day of South American qualifying action.
Argentina were held to a 0-0 draw in Buenos Aires by Peru, leaving the two-time world champions outside the automatic qualification places as they head into the final round of fixtures next Tuesday.
It was another desperately disappointing display by Argentina, who once again struggled to turn a wealth of possession into goals.
Barcelona star Messi hit the post in the second half but could only watch in frustration after serving up a stream of chances for team-mates who failed to convert.
The result left Argentina in sixth place in the standings. The first four teams qualify automatically, with the fifth-placed team advancing to a playoff against New Zealand in November.
But with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay, the final standings could change dramatically depending on results on Tuesday.
The margin for error for Argentina, however, has narrowed after their latest setback, their third consecutive draw of a faltering qualification campaign.
Argentina’s final qualifier is a challenging away trip to Ecuador in the thin air of Quito. Argentina have a poor record in the Ecuadoran capital, losing two out of three of their last World Cup qualifiers there and drawing the other. The Argentines’ last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.
However a victory on Tuesday would guarantee Argentina at least fifth place in the standings, with Peru and Colombia guaranteed to drop points against each other in their final game.