- Argentina in danger of missing World Cup for first time since 1970
- Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay; Bolivia 0-0 Brazil; Chile 2-1 Ecuador
Argentina’s Lionel Messi at the end of the goalless World Cup qualifier against Peru in Buenos
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 sixth 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 play-off 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, who last failed to qualify for a World Cup in 1970, 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 Ecuadorian capital, losing two out of three of their last World Cup qualifiers there and drawing the other. The Argentinians’ last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.
“Our situation is not very comfortable,” said Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli, “but it depends on us. I remain confident we’ll be in the World Cup. It would really be unfair if a group that put it all out there like they did does not advance. Throughout the game we had a marked advantage again them, but we could not break through.”
Argentina had all the possession against Peru. Messi had a handful of good chances and hit the post in the first minute of the second half. Dario Benedetto had several chances, too, but the visitors rode out the game for a vital point. “Getting a result in Argentina is really difficult,” said Peru’s Argentinian-born coach Ricardo Gareca. “But qualifying now depends only on us, which is important.”
Late goals lift Paraguay to stunning win
Colombia were on top against Paraguay throughout and Radamel Falcao’s 78th-minute goal appeared to have cemented their place in Russia.
However, two late errors by goalkeeper David Ospina, combined with a number of missed chances by the home side, allowed Paraguay to keep their own hopes alive with a 2-1 win in Barranquilla. Ospina spilled the ball from a hopeful punt with two minutes remaining, allowing Oscar Cardozo to latch on to the loose ball and fire home. A minute into injury-time the keeper failed to hold a low drive and Antonio Sanabria slotted home to give the visitors three points.
Uruguay failed to break down Venezuela in a 0-0 draw and must wait until Tuesday to seal what looks like a certain World Cup place.
Despite the presence of Barcelona’s Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani in their starting line-up, Uruguay were held to a stalemate in San Cristobal that confirmed their hosts will finish bottom of the 10-team group.
Brazil remained 10 points clear at the top despite a 0-0 draw with Bolivia in La Paz. Home goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was the man of the match after denying Neymar three times at the Hernando Siles Stadium.
Both sides hit the woodwork in a lively encounter – Bolivia at the end of the first half and the visitors in the second. Bolivia have already been eliminated but both sides will play a significant role in the final round; Brazil host Chile on Tuesday, while Bolivia travel to Montevideo to face Uruguay.