Argentinians keep their hope alive for crucial Peru clash
Montevideo: Argentina's stumbling 2018 World Cup qualification campaign faces another awkward hurdle on Thursday as the misfiring South American giants take on in- form Peru in Buenos Aires.
The 2014 World Cup finalists have lurched from one disappointment to the next since South America's qualifiers kicked off two years ago, with the two-time champions invariably failing to add up to the sum of their talented parts.
Despite a formidable arsenal of attackers led by Lionel Messi, the Argentinians have scored just 16 goals in 16 games, the second lowest total behind already-eliminated Bolivia.
A lacklustre 1-1 home draw with Venezuela in their last outing on September 5 left Argentina's hopes of automatic qualification for next year's finals in Russia hanging by the slenderest of threads.
With just tomorrow's game against Peru and next week's challenging trip to Ecuador remaining, Argentina are in fifth place in the table, outside the top four automatic qualifying places.
While a fifth-place finish would likely still see them qualify for Russia — with what ought to be a straight forward playoff assignment against New Zealand awaiting — a crowded table means Argentina can't take anything for granted.
If South American champions Chile — currently in sixth place, one point adrift of Argentina — win their home match against Ecuador, and fourth-placed Peru win or draw in Buenos Aires, Argentina will head into the final round of games next week outside both the automatic qualifying and playoff places.