They need to win – and wait for some results to go their way – if they want to punch a direct ticket to the tournament.
As a result, Jorge Sampaoli’s star-studded side face being the first Argentina team to fail to qualify for football’s biggest showcase event since 1970.
That question posed by Diego Maradona must haunt all of Argentina in the hours counting down to tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Ecuador at nearly 3,000 metres above sea level.
But the good news for Messi and Sampaoli is that the table is still congested, with Chile third in the automatic qualifying places just a point ahead of them.
“Messi is extraordinary but he is yet to win a World Cup”, Infantino told the newspaper La Nacion.
Former Argentina striker Mario Kempes believes that only Maradona fans will be happy if Lionel Messi does not make the World Cup.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side are now in sixth place in the South American qualifying group, having drawn their last three matches, scoring just one goal in the process. A victory would guarantee they finish no worse than fifth place, putting them into a two-legged play-off against New Zealand that they would be expected to win. But Argentina are distinctly average, even abject, without their superstar. Brazil have already qualified for Russian Federation on 38 points, while Uruguay (28) need just a draw from their final game against Bolivia to advance.
Argentina have clumsily rumbled through qualification in South America, collecting 25 points compared to Brazil’s haul of 38.
– A draw seems good enough for Argentina if Colombia beat Peru and Paraguay fail to beat Venezuela. The message I’m spreading to the players is that they have in one hand the altitude [of Quito], Ecuador, the challenges and the missed goals. Earlier, team Argentina was defeated against them at the first round.
A World Cup finals without the presence of Messi seems preposterous, but there is a real chance the Barcelona legend will not feature in Russian Federation next summer. Second-placed Uruguay needs just a draw at home against Bolivia to qualify for World Cup.
“If you’ve not seen that player play then they can’t be the greatest”.
It’s all looking pretty ugly for Argentina, but they can at least take comfort from the knowledge that Ecuador have nothing to play for, already suffering elimination after a wretched run of five consecutive losses.