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Argentina are in serious danger of missing out of the World Cup in Russia next summer. Should they do so it would be the first time they have failed to qualify since 1970.
Even though they have the best player arguably of all time amongst their ranks, Jorge Sampaoli’s side lie in sixth place in the CONMEBOL qualifying table, with only the top four teams guaranteed a place in the tournament and the fifth having to face a team from Oceania in the play-offs.
Here is the table after 17 games:
As you can see, it’s very close between the teams in 3rd to 7th place. Only two of Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay can qualify directly with just one match remaining.
Argentina travel to Ecuador in their final qualifier, but will need other results to go their way if they are to make it into the top four. A draw could be enough if they are lucky, but they really need a win.
Their last match was a hugely disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Peru, after a similarly uninspiring 1-1 draw again in front of their own fans last month against Venezuela. Unbelievably though, neither of those results have proved to be costly – yet.
Elsewhere in the group, Colombia and Peru face off in Lima meaning one of them will definitely drop points, and Chile have a tough trip to Brazil, who ran away with the group and qualified a long time ago.
So, let’s have a look at the possibilities facing Argentina and what needs to happen for them to qualify for the World Cup…
Unbelievably, Argentina could still lose and make the play-offs if their goal difference is better than Peru and Paraguay. This would mean Peru losing to Colombia at home and Paraguay failing to beat Venezuela. Currently, Argentina have +1 goal difference, the same as Peru although with less goals scored, so if points and GD is level then Peru will finish above them. It looks unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
Again, it’s unlikely, but Argentina could even qualify directly to the World Cup as the fourth placed team with a draw. If Argentina draw and Chile and Colombia both lose then the three teams would be level on 26 points, with Peru finishing third on 28. The fourth placed team would be the one with the best goal difference.
At the moment, Argentina have +1 and Chile and Colombia both have +2, but both have scored more than los Albicelestes so would only finish behind them in this scenario if they lost by more than one goal.
However, we haven’t factored in Paraguay yet. If they beat Venezuela at home then they would move up to 27 points and take fourth spot. Still following…?
Argentina could even win and fail to qualify directly, although three points will at least guarantee them a play-off spot. They will be aiming for the win and nothing less in Ecuador.
A win would take Argentina above at least one of Colombia (4th) and Peru (5th) given that they play each other on Wednesday. If Colombia and Peru draw then Argentina would leapfrog both with a win and qualify directly for the World Cup.
Now, here’s where it gets more complicated… If Colombia win, Argentina will only qualify directly if they win and Chile also drop points at Brazil. The same goes for if Peru win, although if Argentina were to win by more goals then Peru then they would finish above them and Colombia, qualifying irregardless of Chile’s result.
If Chile win in Brazil, then a Colombia win or Peru win by the same amount or more goals than a hypothetical Argentina win would mean Jorge Sampaoli’s team finishing fifth and going into the play-offs.
Read more about Argentina, Ecuador and Football
Read more about the Argentina national team at afa.org.ar.