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Messi’s Argentina to Miss 2018 FIFA World Cup?

Messi’s Argentina to Miss 2018 FIFA

The South American giants have been a perennial fixture in football’s most prestigious tournament but for the coming 2018 staging in Russia, they could be surprisingly out of the picture.

It would be strange of course seeing the field sans the Albiceleste but with the way they are playing in the qualifiers, a possibility is looming large.

As far as avid World Cup followers are concerned, Argentina have been around so long to display their wares, even getting the tag as one of the teams to beat each time the much-awaited event is held every four years.

That familiar sight could disappear though if Lady Luck continues to frown on the side built around their talismanic captain Lionel Messi.

Albiceleste have seen action in 16 World Cups, and lifted the trophy in 1978 and 1986, aside from placing second on three occasions (1930, 1990, 2014).

But with four matches left in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, Argentina are dangerously lodged at fifth place after a recent 2-0 loss to Bolivia.
As rules stipulate, only the top four countries get automatic slots, and at present, they are Brazil (33 points), Colombia (24), Uruguay and Chile (23). Brazil nailed their place to Russia with a 3-0 win over Paraguay.

Toting 22 points, Argentina should they land fifth eventually, will have to make it past in a playoff against a team from Oceania.
These are trying times for Argentina, for Messi and for coach Edgardo Bauza.

Messi, considered the heart and soul of the team, is serving a four-game FIFA ban for insulting an assistant referee during their 1-0 win over Chile, with the squad learning about the suspension only six hours before they faced Bolivia.

The Barcelona forward will also miss August qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela and an October qualifier against Peru, and would be back only later in October for their final match during a visit to Ecuador.

And sad to say, Messi has yet to deliver the coveted World Cup to his country, perhaps the only stain in his illustrious career, unlike Diego Maradona, who has become a sporting hero at home for leading the country to glory in 1986 (remember his “Hand of God’’ goal?), and Mario Kempes, who starred in their 1978 success.

Until then, only the results in the current qualifiers when Messi won’t be around could finally decide the outcome for Argentina. It could be too late for him or he could still be their saviour if positive results come in their way.

As for Bauza, who took over from Tata Martino last August, talks are swirling he could be sacked anytime now unless drastic changes for the better turn the fortunes around for his struggling team.

Pardon the proximity with the classic song, but do we hear Argentines crying for their country when the qualifiers end?

Or do we see Messi resurrecting to regain their pride and leading his country to the tournament proper next year?