'Messi Must Win World Cup To Be Special'

'Messi Must Win World Cup To Be Special'

In the end, the match ended up in similar fashion to that of 1969, with Peru holding out for a 0-0 draw.

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. Argentina lie in sixth place, below the one play-off spot, having scored a paltry 16 goals in 17 games.

Ecuador were surprisingly unbeaten in the 2006 and 2014 qualifiers at their scenic home, while opponents usually struggle and succumb under the severe playing conditions at Quito.

It is nearly certainly not a coincidence that since then Argentina have seldom looked like a solid, coherent team. Peru have won two of their last three games and drew in Argentina, however, so can't be underestimated. He has also seen the Albiceleste lose to Chile in the final of the Copa America.

- This is one wishful thought, but a possibility.

With the trip to Peru beckoning, Colombia sit in fourth place in the CONMEBOL South American section of qualifying on 26 points, with just two points separating them from Paraguay in seventh ahead of the final round of games.

Six nations remain in the mix for a chance to make it to the finals, but Ecuador have already been eliminated after just falling short of the mark. No worries for Neymar & Co.

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Uruguay are all but qualified.

"On this occasion, I'm going to be happy if the team win even if they don't deserve it", Sampaoli said. A draw would only be good enough if Peru lose and Paraguay fail to win. Anything else and it gets complicated. To do so, they'll need to beat Ecuador and get a little bit of help as well.

On Thursday night, Argentina found themselves in a similar situation as they took on the Peruvians at home.

Peru host Colombia in a match that could decide the fate of both teams, while Chile face unbeaten Brazil in Sao Paulo. Colombia are into the playoff versus New Zealand if only one of Paraguay, Argentina and Chile do better than that.

Paraguay are hoping against hope. Should Brazil lose to Chile, they could do Neymar a favour and ensure his biggest continental rival does not have the same safe passage to Russian Federation.

Alejandro Moreno explains why Argentina could find it hard to get the result they need at Ecuador.