Argentina on precipice as 2018 qualification battle reaches climax

Brazil star Neymar against Croatia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Brazil star Neymar against Croatia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

This hat-trick in Argentia vs Ecuador also made Messi the joint all-time leading scorer in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers with 20 goals, alongside Uruguay's Luis Suárez. "We could not miss going to the World Cup".

There was a major shock further north in the Americas with the US slipping from third spot to fifth in CONCACAF qualifying for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean with a loss in Trinidad and missing out on the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Javier Mascherano said Argentina must learn from their qualifying errors if they want to build for the future.

For South America's qualifiers, three of the four direct places haven't been filled yet, as well as the play-off team that will face off against New Zealand. Coach Jorge Sampaoli has excluded team veteran Gonzalo Higuain and has tried all kinds of forward combinations with Messi: Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi, Dario Benedetto, and Alejandro Gomez.

"Football owes him a World Cup", Sampaoli told reporters after the match.

It looked as if Argentina's worst fears were set to become a reality after Ibarra's opening goal in the first minute.

Peru and Colombia will meet in a key match.

As you can see from the thread below, Drogba was getting plenty of stick over what he had said about Messi, and he didn't even know what he had said.

Argentina now sits in sixth place on 25 points.

But a goal with around 10 minutes remaining earned the home team a 1-1 draw and left them in fifth-place, where they had been after the penultimate round of matches.

But while Argentina celebrated, it was a miserable night for Sampaoli's former team Chile.

They only won seven of 18 matches, including dropping four points against Paraguay, while Brazil secured their spot in Russian Federation way back in March.

Finally we reach Lionel Messi and Argentina, now in sixth place in the CONMEBOL standings.

Uruguay cemented their second place in the group with a 4-2 win over Bolivia.

Colombia were moments from qualifying for the World Cup last Thursday before two last-gasp goals from Paraguay turned a 1-0 win into a 2-1 defeat.

Paolo Guerrero scored in the 74th minute in Lima after James Rodriguez was on target for Colombia.

In the day's other game, Paraguay's hopes of qualification evaporated in a 1-0 loss to Venezuela in Asuncion.

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