Monday, December 18, 2017 10:27:21 PM
AFP, Montevideo :
The once unfathomable prospect of a World Cup without Lionel Messi and Argentina could become reality on Tuesday as South America's thrilling 2018 qualification battle reaches its climax.
Two years after Argentina kicked off their troubled campaign with a 2-0 defeat at home to Ecuador, Jorge Sampaoli's side travel to Quito to face La Tri once more with their hopes hanging precariously.
The two-time World Cup-winners head into the final round of games in sixth place overall, outside the top four positions which grant automatic qualification and trailing fifth-placed Peru, who occupy the playoff spot, on goal difference.
Yet with only two points separating third-placed Chile (26 points) with seventh-placed Paraguay (24), any number of permutations are possible.
Argentina can simplify the equation for their fans, however, if they manage to take all three points.
A victory would guarantee they finish no worse than fifth place, putting them into a two-legged play-off against New Zealand they would be expected to win.
But achieving victory in the thin air of Quito, which is 2,850 metres (9,350 feet) above sea level, may be easier said than done.
The Argentinians have an abysmal record in away games against Ecuador, with their last victory in Quito coming in 2001.
Since then in World Cup qualifying games, they have been beaten twice, in 2005 and 2009, before scraping a 1-1 draw in 2013.
Moreover, Argentina face their moment of truth after a series of uninspiring performances that has left the rest of the footballing world scratching its head at how a squad bristling with so much attacking talent has found scoring so difficult.
Despite being able to call upon Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria throughout the campaign, Argentina have only scored 16 times in 17 games.
Last Thursday's 0-0 stalemate with Peru in Buenos Aires was Argentina's third consecutive draw. The Albiceleste have now scored only once in their past four qualifying games.
Sampaoli attempted to break that cycle last week with the surprise selection of Dario Benedetto in attack, a gamble that failed to pay off after the Boca Juniors striker missed a string of chances.
It is unclear whether Sampaoli will persist with Benedetto again on Tuesday.
While Messi and his team-mates attempt to adjust to the lung-busting challenge of playing at altitude, millions of compatriots will be holding their breath.
The sense of anxiety was reflected by La Nacion newspaper. "Argentina is not on the edge of the precipice - it is hanging on the cornice vertically," the paper commented.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Chile could seal their qualification with victory over Brazil in Sao Paulo. Brazil have already qualified for the finals and are guaranteed top spot.
Uruguay meanwhile need only take a point in their home qualifier against already-eliminated Bolivia to be certain of progressing.
One of the most high-stakes games comes in Lima, where Peru will aim to qualify for their first World Cup finals since 1982 when they take on Colombia.
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.
That win kept Paraguay's qualification bid alive and a home win over Venezuela on Tuesday could see them seal their place to Russia depending on results elsewhere.
ACCORDING to the medical charity MSF sources, at least some 6,700 Rohingyas got killed in the very first month of the Myanmar army's crackdown on the ethnic minority in Rakhine State. But it appears Myanmar government is trying to deceive the world by avoiding to take back Rohingya refugees. It ...
Ever since her debut, the 25-year-old actress has been in news for her chic sartorial choices. A source reveals, “According to the label, Athiya is known for her fashion sensibilities. She is a hit when it comes to red carpet appearances and nails the high street fashion.” “So, after meetings ...
The power couple, Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma, who recently set some major wedding goals with their Italian destination ceremony, is now giving fans a glimpse into their post-married life. The ethereal couple tied the knot at a picturesque location in Italy on December 11. The 29-year-old newlywed, who is ...
Reuters, Washington :An organization established for US President Donald Trump's transition to the White House a year ago said on Saturday that the special counsel investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election had obtained tens of thousands of emails unlawfully.Kory Langhofer, counsel to the transition team known as ...
PTI, Washington :US President Donald Trump today said the Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages, and "massive tax relief" for American families and domestic companies.Trump recognised the tax reform as a campaign promise during his run-up to the 2016 presidential election, ...
WE welcome the OIC's (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) decision declaring East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine at a summit at Istanbul on Wednesday as the most appropriate and timely action to denounce US President Donald Trump's unilateral declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Their call ...
Meryl Streep has begun her Hollywood award season dominance by bagging her 31st Golden Globe nomination, which is a record in the 75-year history of the award show. Streep won the nomination in the best actress, drama category for her portrayal of the Washington Post publisher Kay Graham in Steven ...
Entertainment Report :Today across the country in 175 cinema halls Malek Afsari directed and Porimoni-Zayed Khan acted much awaited movie Antorjwala is set to be released. On the occasion its releasing Pori and Zayed will enjoy the movie along with director Malek Afsari in Dhaka’s Modhumita, Shyamoli and Sony halls.While ...
Weekend Plus Desk :If you are a burger lover or want to fix a burger quickly for uninvited guests, here are a few recipes which can save the day. Recipes by Chef Gaurav Chadha, in-house chef, Dr Oetker India Pvt Ltd:* Chicken and egg burger: Heat oil in a kadhai ...
AN attempted terrorist attack in a New York City bus terminal by a US national of Bangladesh origin has caused widespread surprise and condemnation here and also in the Bangladesh community in the USA. The person Akayed Ullah at his 27 is a taxi driver in New York City and ...
Xinhua, Washington :U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the U.S. embassy in Israel was unlikely to be moved to Jerusalem before 2020, national media outlets reported."It's not going to be anything that happens right away," U.S. news daily the New York Times quoted Tillerson's speech at the State ...