Argentina′s struggles raise possibility of a World Cup without Lionel Messi | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 06.10.2017
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Argentina's struggles raise possibility of a World Cup without Lionel Messi

He's widely regarded as one of the best ever to play the game but international football hasn't always been kind to Lionel Messi. Now his Argentina side are in serious danger of failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

"We cannot ask more of Lionel Messi. He had chances, created them," said Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli after his side's 0-0 home draw against Peru on Thursday. "Messi was very intense, the way we need him."

Even if the former Sevilla and Chile boss can't ask much more of his talisman, he surely can of the rest of his players. Argentina's star-studded squad have won just six of their 17 qualifiers to date, leaving them in sixth position in the South American qualifying section.

The Albiceleste almost certainly need to win their final qualifier game away to Ecuador on Tuesday to be in with a hope of booking passage to Russia. The top four teams in the section will qualify automatically while the team in fifth will face a playoff against New Zealand.

"All that was missing was a goal," continued Sampaoli, adding that he was "very confident in the fact that we'll be at the World Cup".

Struggles in scoring

Despite a squad that has such a wealth of attacking talent it can afford to name Juventus' Pablo Dybala on the bench and leave his clubmate Gonzalo Higuain out of the squad all together, a lack of potency has been a feature of Argentina's campaign.

Copa America Finale | Argentinien vs. Chile - Lionel Messi (Reuters/Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Messi briefly retired from international football after this defeat against Chile

Only Bolivia, already eliminated, have scored fewer while rock-bottom Venezuela, with just one win from their 17 matches, have managed two more goals than Messi's men. Their fierce rivals Brazil have scored more than double their total.

Messi, who briefly retired from international football last year after a loss to Chile in the Copa America final only to return to the fold less than two months later, was the last Argentina player to score a goal back in March. The only other time they've found the net since then was a Rolf Feltscher own goal in their draw against Venezuela in September.

Media unimpressed

Reaction to the team's struggles have been predictably pained. "Will there be a World Cup without the world's best player?" asked Clarin newspaper on its website. 

 La Nacion's verdict was even more damning. That outlet likened the performance to "someone drowning". They have given up faith in Messi and his team-mates,saying: "We've got to this final match, begging for a miracle."

Like the coach though, the media wouldn't blame Messi. Regardless of the where the blame lies, there's a very real chance the 2018 World Cup could miss one of its two biggest stars. 



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