Not going to the World Cup would be the biggest catastrophe in Argentina’s history and an impossible happening to one of the greatest players ever, Lionel Messi missing out on the biggest football tournament.
Thursday’s goalless draw against Peru leaves Lionel Messi and his beleaguered band of brothers in need of a positive result in the drowning altitude of Quito on Tuesday; failure to do so would make the seemingly impossible, a reality.
Despite Argentina’s fumbling qualification campaign, the dropped points at home to Paraguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela, the blunt attack that has produced fewer goals than all the South American nations barring Bolivia and the obvious lack of cohesion under a third manager, most had still held the belief that comes what may, Messi would be in Russia.
Now after racking up more than 450 minutes without a competitive goal from open play and only a point from Thursday’s visit to Peru, belief has made way for hope and mathematics.
With just one game remaining, Argentina sits outside even the fifth-placed playoff spot, grateful only for Paraguay’s dramatic late comeback against Colombia, that fate is still in their own hands.
A victory away to Ecuador will be enough for Sampaoli’s side — a draw even, depending on results, but the complications for La Albiceleste to overcome go well beyond the simple climatic problems that Quito poses.
Did Argentina create enough chances to beat Peru? Absolutely. The same could be said of Venezuela last month but through three managerial changes, results have barely changed.
Ever since Mario Gotze’s injury-time winner in the Maracana in 2014 denied Argentina a World Cup, and the subsequent agonizing Copa América defeats, the question has been asked if Argentina will provide a team capable of helping Messi achieve the one prize that eludes him.
As the chances of that have diminished over the past year, remarkably it’s now at a point when possibly the greatest player of all-time will not even be in Russia.
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