Sports

Star-studded Argentina staring into the abyss ahead of crunch Ecuador showdown

Star-studded Argentina staring into the abyss ahead of crunch Ecuador showdown

They sit sixth in the qualification table and must be in the top four to progress straight to Russian Federation, while a fifth-place finish will seem them face an inter-confederation play-off.

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.

And if the two-time World Champions lose against Ecuador then they will be nearly eliminated which means we won't be able to see Messi at the 2018 World Cup.

"I proposed that after Noel Gallagher, who leaves at seven, we will televise the game of Argentina and then play U2", Daniel Grinbank, the organiser of the event, told La Nacion.

They should consider themselves lucky as they are going to play against a team, Ecuador, who have already been eliminated from the competition. Only Brazil has so far qualified, with Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and Peru all ahead of Argentina.

Sadly, Sampaoli's arrival hasn't made things better, and the former Sevilla and Chile boss is still waiting for his first competitive win after seeing his team score only one goal in three games. A Colombia win (combined with Argentina and Paraguay wins) would see Chile fall to sixth.

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In a must-win contest, Argentina faces Ecuador on Wednesday.

With the only group leader assured of an automatic qualification from the UEFA section, Ronaldo and company face the real threat of finishing second and navigating a potentially tricky play-off tie in order to qualify for Russian Federation 2018. A draw would also be good enough to go straight through if there is a victor in the Peru versus Colombia match, Chile lose by two or Paraguay fail to win. That means a draw will be good enough for Messi's side if Colombia beat Peru and Paraguay fail to win (at home, against last-placed Venezuela). Six teams still have a chance for the remaining three automatic qualifying berths, with one more team qualifying for the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

In South America qualification, the last match of Argentina was against Peru which was hosted at Argentina's home venue. Peru also have a chance even if they draw or lose.

The 2014 World Cup finalists face their moment of truth after a series of uninspiring performances that has the sporting world scratching its head at how a squad bristling with so much attacking talent has found scoring so hard.

For Leo Messi it could be another struggle as he looks to lift his Argentina side to a win in the altitude of Ecuador.

Argentina could even pull-off an incredible comeback and qualify automatically if a few results in their group swing their way.


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