Argentina World Cup hopes in balance

And it may not happen next year.

So accustomed to relentless success with Barcelona over the years, Lionel Messi has been made to suffer on the global stage with Argentina.

Argentina are in danger of missing their first World Cup since 1970 after a 0-0 home draw against Peru in CONMEBOL qualifying on Thursday.

"Barcelona and the Argentine national team can not afford to allow 10 minutes to pass in a game without Leo Messi touching the ball", Xavi told El Mundo.

Argentina, the runner-up to Germany three years ago in Brazil, plays on Tuesday against Ecuador in the thin air of Quito in the Andes.

Argentina is within touching distance of automatic qualification places, sitting pretty at 5th behind immediate opponents Peru.

Brazil and Bolivia played an entertaining 0-0 draw in a game that did nothing to change either side's World Cup fate.

A draw for Argentina may also be enough to secure the play-off place but only if Colombia were to beat Peru while Paraguay would also need to fail to beat bottom-placed Venezuela in Asuncion. Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia are already out of contention. No Argentina in Russian Federation.

However the selection gambit largely failed to pay off as Argentina once again struggled to turn their dominance of possession into goals.

The hosts stepped up their intensity early in the second half and Messi engendered a collective sigh from the capacity crowd when his first-time shot cannoned off the post after Benedetto forced a reflex Gallese save.

"I never saw such disappointment in a dressing room; several of my team-mates were crying and Adolfo Pedernera [Argentina's coach] was sat silently in a corner smoking", Argentine player Alberto Rendo told And Juventus star Paulo Dybala is likely to be benched, too, with Sampaoli hoping Darío Benedetto can transfer his hot form for Boca Juniors to the worldwide stage.

Lionel Messi, Mauro Icardi, Paulo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria as well as Gonzalo Higuain with each other constitute one of one of the most enviable worldwide attacking devices on the planet, yet the Albiceleste remain in major threat of not receiving next year's World Mug in Russian Federation.

Sampaoli tried to sound upbeat. I'm defending my belief that we will be in World Cup.

Infantino said that Argentina must "be an example" by putting "heart, strength and passion into it, to start working seriously for the sport, with a new, stronger Federation Internationale de Football Association, with a new, stronger CONMEBOL".

"The situation is not comfortable".

Nigeria remain on course to qualify for a third successive World Cup, a feat they have achieved only once before in their history.

Radamel Falcao scored with a deft lob to put Colombia 1-0 ahead in the 79th minute, but the Colombians inexplicably continued to press forward and were twice caught on the break by Paraguay. That result would have put Colombia in Russian Federation.

In the end, Paraguay's victory over Colombia has proven a miracle for Argentina.

Uruguay's 0-0 draw at Venezuela makes qualification nearly a formality.

Captain and five-time Ballon d'Or victor Lionel Messi and Juventus sensation Paulo Dybala have scored a total of 26 goals between them in all competitions at club level this season.

  • Julie Sanders