Argentina’s 0-0 draw with Peru means there is a real possibility they, and Leo Messi, won’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
They currently sit sixth in the CONMEBOL qualification campaign and haven’t won in four matches.
Only the top four sides qualify automatically, while the team in fifth will face a play-off against New Zealand.
And our friends at Football Whispers have taken a look at what went wrong for Messi and Co.
There was no doubt the pressure was on before kick-off in Argentina’s penultimate World Cup qualifier against Peru.
Both sides went into the game on 24 points, knowing a win would virtually secure qualification.
Peru were so worried about potential dirty tactics by the Argentinians that they refused to drink the local water in Buenos Aires, instead bringing their own supply.
“We will take our own water, that is right,” team doctor Jorge Alva told reporters before leaving for Argentina.
“Previously food poisoning from drinking water in other countries was common, now hotels have a better name. But in any case we are taking precautions.”
While that may be the official line, it brought back memories of a game in 1990 when Brazil left-back Branco drank from a flask offered to him by the Albiceleste technical staff, which had allegedly been spiked and caused an adverse effect on his performance – a story Diego Maradona claimed was true in 2004.
The fact that Peru would not trust the water supply shows how important the game was for both sides.
Argentina understood this too and in a bid to get the upper hand over the visitors changed stadiums ahead of the game.
They usually play in Buenos Aires at the home of River Plate, El Monumental, but they moved across the city to the ground of Boca Juniors, La Bombonera.
El Monumental is bigger, but the fans are further away from the pitch, while La Bombonera is probably the most passionate stadium in Argentina, known for its wall of noise.
It was hoped that the atmosphere would lift Argentina and intimidate Peru.
Yet arguably, it had the opposite effect to that which was desired, with the pressure showing on the home side, who looked nervy throughout, with the fans’ expectation only adding to the tension from such an important game.
What’s more, Jorge Sampaoli switched his tactics for the game. He’d previously favoured a 3-4-3 but decided to switch to a 4-2-3-1 for his fifth match in charge of Argentina.
The back three had previously looked slow, while the back four was designed to stop a Peru counter-attack.
It worked so much as keeping them out – the away side only had one shot on target, even if they did look the more likely side to score on the break as the game came to a close with nerves setting in for the Argentineans.
Up front, with Gonzalo Higuain out of favour, Sampaoli has tended to prefer an attacking trio of Messi, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi, meaning Sergio Aguero’s injury wasn’t a huge blow.
But, he decided to swap that, with Dybala and Messi apparently failing to gel in training, and Dario Benedetto coming in for Icardi to play at his home ground.
The Boca Juniors striker didn’t have the desired effect though, missing a glorious chance when he was sent through one-on-one with the keeper by Messi.
What’s more, the 4-2-3-1 actually made Argentina look very narrow, playing into Peru’s hands.
Barcelona transfer target Angel Di Maria and Papu Gomez played as inverted wingers but they were constantly cutting inside, which only helped their defensive opponents, who had come for a point, failing to properly drag them out from their entrenched position.
Sampaoli’s side dominated the ball, with 66 percent possession but they were unable to create many decent chances despite their 22 shots on goal – just six of them were on target.
Messi showed flashes of brilliance, but elsewhere Benedetto, Gomez and Di Maria were all disappointing.
There’s no doubt that Argentina have quality individuals but when they put on the Argentina shirt, it really feels like there’s a pressure on them that weighs them down.
But despite their struggles, qualifying for the play-offs is still in the Albiceleste’s hands.
If they beat Ecuador on Wednesday, they’ll finish at least fifth as Colombia and Peru, who sit in fourth and fifth place respectively, face each other.
Argentina are level on points with Peru, and just one behind Colombia. But a draw against Ecuador probably won’t be good enough, especially as seventh-placed Paraguay only have one point less than Argentina.
A trip to Quito, more than 2,800 metres above sea level won’t be easy for a team performing nowhere near its best.
They may have to rely on a moment of magic from Messi to avoid the unthinkable and put to bed a disastrous qualification campaign which has seen them have three managers and score just 16 goals.
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