Messi, Argentina on verge of World Cup catastrophe

The South American giants welcome Peru before travelling to Ecuador for World Cup qualifiers

All throughout the week, there has been talk that Argentina's path to next summer's World Cup has been a tricky one.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Russian Federation 2018, with the fifth-placed team facing a two-legged intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

Peru and Argentina each enter the game on 24 points in the table, but Peru are now in fourth place because they have scored more goals. A win would definitely be good enough for Argentina to go through, but a draw would put them in a tough place and relying on others for support.

Colombia dropped to fourth place after a stunning 2-1 defeat to Paraguay in Barranquilla.

Argentina have struggled for goals in a poor qualifying campaign in which they have been under three coaches. The reigning Copa America champions rose to third in the standings while Ecuador were left out of contention for a World Cup spot.

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This seems unreal to type, but Argentina may not make it to next year's World Cup in Russian Federation.

The Sri Lankan capital of Colombo was the unlikely location for the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers which, after more than two and a half years, begin to draw to a close.

But one area where all media were agreed was that should Argentina miss out, it won't be Messi's fault.

"Throughout the match the difference between the two teams was clear", said Sampaoli, who saw his side claim 66 per cent of the possession and have 22 shots on goal at La Bombonera on Thursday.

Some even went as far as to suggest the diminutive Barcelona forward, a five-time world player of the year, is practically playing on his own alongside hapless compatriots.

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The former Spain global, who now plays for Qatari club Al Sadd SC, has warned both his former club and the Argentina team that they must always have Messi involved, otherwise they risk the star getting annoyed.

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.

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). This worldwide break, they will be playing Peru at home. If they draw, they are out if both Argentina and Paraguay win.

"I remain confident we'll be in the World Cup", he said.

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