undergroundnewsroom.com February 24, 2018

Argentina's fate hangs in the balance after lacklustre Peru draw

07 October 2017, 12:48 | Nina Mathis

Brazil's Neymar laughs during a practice session with the national soccer team in Teresopolis Brazil Monday Oct. 2 2017

Brazil's Neymar laughs during a practice session with the national soccer team in Teresopolis Brazil Monday Oct. 2 2017

Lionel Messi and co are in danger of missing out on the 2018 World Cup after drawing their penultimate game of qualifying, failing to score in a 0-0 draw against Peru.

Messi has scored 11 league goals in seven appearances so far, responsible for 48% of the club's total number and now the league's leading goalscorer - and they sit comfortably in first place with five points clear and unbeaten.

Only the top four in South American qualifying are guaranteed a place at the 2018 tournament in Russian Federation, and Argentina are sixth with one game left.

Uruguay will automatically qualify for the tournament with a win or draw over Bolivia, while Chile will automatically advance with a win over Brazil. The selecao are on 38 points, followed by Uruguay (28), Chile (26), Colombia (26), Peru (25), Argentina (25) and Paraguay (24).

While Argentina's FIFA World Cup qualification campaign has been underwhelming, Xavi believes Jorge Sampaoli, who took over as head coach in May, can lead Argentina to World Cup glory.

The visitors appeared to have secured a point in the 84th through Romario Ibarra Mina, but Alexis Sanchez rescued the three points seconds later with a simple finish after Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera palmed Felipe Gutierrez's shot directly into the Arsenal man's path.

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The last time these sides met, it finished in a 2-2 draw after Peru came from behind twice to snatch a point, and another stalemate is quoted at 5/1 (6.0).

Javier Mascherano fired just high from well outside the box on 77 minutes but Argentina would get no closer on the disappointing day. 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.

That will leave two teams trying to reach the playoff, which looms as Argentina's most probable route.

As things stand, Brazil, Ururguay, Chile and Colombia occupy the automatic qualification positions, while the draw for Peru leaves them on course for a play-off. And La Albirroja have a very good chance of sneaking into the playoff spot because they play Venezuela (a team that has won just once so far), provided Argentina lose.

Now sitting top of Group B, a home victory against nearest rivals Zambia - who sit just three points behind - would guarantee qualification to Russian Federation 2018. "As the match went on the difference between the teams was clear", he added.

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