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21
Sat, Oct

WC2018: Argentina Risk Missing Out, Brazil Held

With one round of games remaining in South America's qualifying tournament, Argentina are outside the qualification places.

The prospect of a World Cup without Lionel Messi edged nearer to reality on Thursday as Argentina struggled to a 0-0 draw with Peru which left their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

Despite dominating possession in front of a raucous home support at Buenos Aires' fabled "La Bombonera" stadium, Messi and Argentina once again drew a blank to the dismay of their fans.

The result left Argentina in sixth place in South America's marathon qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

The first four teams in the standings qualify automatically, with the fifth-placed side going into a playoff against New Zealand in November.

Argentina's draw sets up a nail-biting finale next week, with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay. All could yet clinch an automatic qualification spot depending on results elsewhere.

The margin for error for Argentina however has narrowed dramatically after their latest stalemate, their third consecutive draw of a faltering qualification campaign.

Argentina's final qualifier is a challenging away trip to Ecuador in the thin air of Quito. 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. The Argentines last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.

Thursday's draw with Peru will give Argentina's fans little cause for optimism as the familiar failings in front of goal once again dogged Jorge Sampaoli's side.

Sampaoli had taken the bold decision to leave strikers Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala on the bench, opting for a new-look attack led by Boca Juniors forward Dario Benedetto, playing in his home stadium.

However the selection gambit largely failed to pay off as Argentina once again struggled to turn their dominance of possession into goals.

Messi helped set up one of the best chances of the first half surging forward only to be tackled. The ball rolled free to Angel Di Maria who blazed over the bar.

In the second half Messi almost opened the scoring, hitting the post with a deflected effort soon after the restart.

Lucas Biglia then went close, forcing a fine save from Pedro Gallese.

Gallese then pulled off another save from Papu Gomez, who once again had been played in by Messi.

It was Emiliano Rigoni's turn to spurn a chance next, with the second half substitute missing gilt-edged opening provided by Messi once more.

With one round of games remaining in South America's qualifying tournament, Argentina are outside the qualification places.

The prospect of a World Cup without Lionel Messi edged nearer to reality on Thursday as Argentina struggled to a 0-0 draw with Peru which left their qualification hopes hanging in the balance.

Despite dominating possession in front of a raucous home support at Buenos Aires' fabled "La Bombonera" stadium, Messi and Argentina once again drew a blank to the dismay of their fans.

The result left Argentina in sixth place in South America's marathon qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

The first four teams in the standings qualify automatically, with the fifth-placed side going into a playoff against New Zealand in November.

Argentina's draw sets up a nail-biting finale next week, with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay. All could yet clinch an automatic qualification spot depending on results elsewhere.

The margin for error for Argentina however has narrowed dramatically after their latest stalemate, their third consecutive draw of a faltering qualification campaign.

Argentina's final qualifier is a challenging away trip to Ecuador in the thin air of Quito. 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. The Argentines last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.

Thursday's draw with Peru will give Argentina's fans little cause for optimism as the familiar failings in front of goal once again dogged Jorge Sampaoli's side.

Sampaoli had taken the bold decision to leave strikers Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala on the bench, opting for a new-look attack led by Boca Juniors forward Dario Benedetto, playing in his home stadium.

However the selection gambit largely failed to pay off as Argentina once again struggled to turn their dominance of possession into goals.

Messi helped set up one of the best chances of the first half surging forward only to be tackled. The ball rolled free to Angel Di Maria who blazed over the bar.

In the second half Messi almost opened the scoring, hitting the post with a deflected effort soon after the restart.

Lucas Biglia then went close, forcing a fine save from Pedro Gallese.

Gallese then pulled off another save from Papu Gomez, who once again had been played in by Messi.

It was Emiliano Rigoni's turn to spurn a chance next, with the second half substitute missing gilt-edged opening provided by Messi once more.

In La Paz, Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was in outstanding form to frustrate five-times world champions Brazil.

The visitors had the best in a match played at high altitude and searing heat on a poor pitch.

Elsewhere, Uruguay failed to break down a stubborn Venezuela in a 0-0 draw that edged them closer to qualification.

Semi-finalists in South Africa in 2010, Uruguay are poised to reach a third successive finals and avoid the play-off route for the first time in five qualifying campaigns.

Chile survived a late scare to beat Ecuador 2-1 in Santiago Eduardo Vargas gave Chile a first-half lead before Romario Ibarra equalised for Ecuador on 84 minutes.

Alexis Sanchez was on hand just minutes later to score the winner from close range.Two goals in the last three minutes gave Paraguay a 2-1 win over Colombia. The result ensured both teams are still in contention for qualification. Colombia were on top throughout and Radamel Falcao’s 78th minute goal appeared to have cemented their place in Russia.

However, two late errors by goalkeeper David Ospina allowed Paraguay to keep their hopes alive.Standings in 2018 World Cup South American qualifying competition (played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, against, points):

Brazil-Q 17 11 5 1 38 11 38

Uruguay 17 8 4 5 28 18 28

Chile 17 8 2 7 26 24 26

Colombia 17 7 5 5 20 18 26

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Peru 17 7 4 6 26 25 25

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Argentina 17 6 7 4 16 15 25

Paraguay 17 7 3 7 19 24 24

Ecuador-x 17 6 2 9 25 26 20

Bolivia-x 17 4 2 11 14 34 14

Venezuela-x 17 1 6 10 18 35 9

Note: Top four teams qualify automatically for 2018 World Cup. Fifth place team plays intercontinental playoff vs New Zealand.

Q-qualified X-eliminated

Results from 2018 World Cup South American qualifying fixtures:

At La Paz

Bolivia 0 Brazil 0

At San Cristobal, Venezuela

Venezuela 0 Uruguay 0

At Santiago

Chile 2 (Vargas 22, Sanchez 85) Ecuador 1 (Ibarra 82)

At Barranquilla, Colombia

Colombia 1 (Falcao 79) Paraguay 2 (Cardozo 89, Sanabria 90+1)

At Buenos Aires

Argentina 0 Peru 0