With all the hypothesizing and blame game that has continued amid Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign, the way to Russia will now be resolved in just 90 minutes of football action away to Ecuador, and a negative result for the team would likely create a stunning shock outcome of Lionel Messi missing the 2018 World Cup.
A win would ensure La Albicelete’s place in at least the playoffs, and could even send them straight to next summer’s competition in Russia if Peru loses and Chile fail to beat Brazil.
However, a draw would likewise get the job done in the improbable event that Paraguay fails to win at home to Bolivia and Colombia defeat the Peruvians, who as of late drew 0-0 in Buenos Aires. That match, their third draw in qualifiers, left Lionel Messi exasperated as Argentina come into the crucial group stage decider on a run of four competitive games with a win.
Russia 2018 may even be Messi’s last shot at lifting the World Cup, as he turns 31 ahead of World Cup, having effectively retired from the national team once before, and may not be around for Qatar 2022.
The blame game can’t be set solidly on Messi’s shoulders, a long way from it, as the likes of Kun Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Nicolas Otamendi are altogether top class players featuring in the Albiceleste ranks.
Not since the 1970 World Cup in Mexico have Argentina remained at home when they drew 2-2 with Peru in their last qualifying series following a loss in Lima and likewise the game against Bolivia in La Paz.
Forty-seven years, it remains true that a World Cup without these renowned players and such an effective and powerful footballing country would most likely be a major miss in the tournament.