Argentina in danger of missing World Cup 2018
PARIS: Argentina is in danger Syria target FIFA World Cup joy, Argentina is missing World Cup 2018 if they don’t pick up two good results over the next week.
Syria faces a play off to keep their remarkable dream alive and European champions Portugal have work to do.
Brazil secured their place in next year’s finals back in March, but three automatic berths remain up for grabs in South America ahead of the final two rounds of qualifying matches.
Two time World Cup champions Argentina haven’t missed the tournament since 1970, but five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and his compatriots, runners-up in Brazil three years ago, are currently languishing in fifth place.
It would be fair to say that there is a lot at stake for Argentina and Lionel Messi during the international break.
Argentina are fifth in the South American qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, a position that would require them to win a playoff against the first place team from Oceania pretty much certainly New Zealand to secure their place in Russia.
Europe will provide 14 of the 32 competing teams in Russia, the hosts included. But so far only Belgium have punched their ticket to the finals going into the last two sets of fixtures.
World champions Germany, who need just a draw in Northern Ireland on Thursday, lead a handful of other sides who can wrap up qualification this week.
England are five points clear in Group F, while Serbia are in control of their section and 2010 champions Spain have the edge over Italy in their two-horse race.
The nine group winner’s progress automatically, while all but one of the runners up advances to the play off round to determine the final four qualifiers.
Portugal, while sure of at least making the play-offs, face a critical final match at home to Switzerland as Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates look to overturn a three-point deficit in Group B.
What is clear is that the 2018 World Cup represents the last realistic chance for this current generation, many of whom were involved in the Under-20 World Cup wins of either 2005 or 2007.
To achieve something together at senior level after reaching three consecutive finals without once being able to lift the major international trophy that has now eluded Argentina for going on quarter of a century (since their Copa America win in 1993).
Sweden in Group A and will be all too aware of the dangers posed by a trip to Bulgaria, the country responsible for their absence at the 1994 World Cup.
It is a similar situation after FIFA’s decision to annul South Africa’s 2-1 win over Senegal from November 2016 a match manipulated by a Ghanaian referee. Burkina Faso and Cape Verde head the pool on six.
Senegal trail by just a point with their match against Bafana to be replayed in November.
Indeed, with the governance of Argentinian football in disarray, it is likely to be some time before a youth-team process as comprehensive and successful is that overseen by Jose Pekerman between 1994 and 2003 and continued by Hugo Tocalli through to 2007 is put into place.
And so if Messi wants to add a World Cup to his long list of career achievements, he and the other fruits of that process need to come together over the next week to lift Argentina out of their current predicament and set themselves on course towards Russia 2018.