Wednesday 21 March 2018

Argentina face missing first World Cup in nearly 50 years as Messi and co draw blank

Argentina 0 Peru 0

Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, is comforted by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli
Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, is comforted by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli

Ryan Wilkinson

Argentina are in peril of missing their first World Cup since 1970 after they were held to a 0-0 draw against Peru.

Even a sell-out home crowd in Buenos Aires' La Bombonera was not enough to rally Lionel Messi's side, who slipped further from qualifying places.

Manager Jorge Sampaoli granted Boca Juniors striker Dario Benedetto his first full debut alongside Papu Gomez up front, although still it was not enough to invigorate the struggling team.

Argentina showed promise and controlled possession for opening stages of both halves, although Peru eventually found their stride.

Messi came tantalisingly close after finding himself on the receiving end of a corner midway into the first half, although a well-placed Peru defender sent his effort wide.

Another effort by Gomez was too high, while a curling shot by Messi approaching half time would have been artful had it found the back of the net.

Despite numerous, increasingly fraught, attempts to break the deadlock, the final whistle came and the stony faces of the hosts said it all.

Meanwhile a late winner by Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez on international duty with Chile raised his side up above Argentina, who find themselves in sixth place with one game to go.

Only the top four teams in the South America group are guaranteed to be on their way to Russia next year, while the team that finish fifth will meet New Zealand for a two-legged playoff in November.

Argentina's fortunes largely rest on how other teams perform next week, when they will meet already-eliminated Ecuador who currently sit two places below in the table.

A win in Quito, which lies at nearly 2,900 metres above sea level, may throw Argentina a lifeline.


Brazil can't break down dogged Bolivia

Soccer Football - 2018 World Cup Qualifications - South America - Bolivia v Brazil - Hernando Siles stadium, La Paz, Bolivia - October 5, 2017 Neymar of Brazil and goalkeeper Carlos Lampe of Bolivia in action. REUTERS/Manuel Claure

Brazil boss Tite highlighted the challenges faced by playing at altitude after his team's goalless World Cup qualifying draw against Bolivia.

The five-times World Cup winners, who are top of the South America qualifying group and already have a place booked in Russia, met the Bolivians in La Paz's Estadio Hernando Siles - which sits at more than 3,600m above sea level.

Despite numerous attempts at goal by Neymar and Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus, supplemented by efforts by Paulinho and Willian, the visitors were held at 0-0 following a remarkable performance by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.

Speaking after the game, Tite insisted he was happy with his squad's performance and praised their medical team.

He said: "Playing here is very difficult. Strategically, I was very happy. We were upright, offensive. I want to emphasise this great performance. Happy for performance and upset about the result.

"I have to praise our professionals for all the logistics of the medical department that gave all the support to make people feel the effects less."

A photo posted on the Brazil team's Twitter page showed Neymar and Jesus along with Alex Sandro, Miranda, Marquinhos and Alisson all hooked up to gas recovery systems.

Press Association

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