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Messi to miss World cup?
December 16 2017, 02:54 | Sammy Rose
Sampaoli knows his side have a tough task ahead of him in the next nine days
Buenos Aires:Argentina are on the verge of missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1970 after they could only manage a 0-0 home draw in their qualifier with Peru.
The top four teams in the South America group qualify automatically, while the fifth placed team will advance to an intercontinental playoff.
Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay are separated by two points in the middle of the table, with any of them in contention to finish fifth when qualifying concludes on Wednesday (NZT) next week.
Argentina's final qualifier comes against Ecuador in Quito - a city in which they haven't won a competitive match in 16 years.
One shared numerous flags of Argentina's rivals Brazil - who have already qualified for Russian Federation.
Argentina's draw sets up a nail-biting finale next week, with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay.
"We are a very strong team in knowing what to look for in each match", said Sampaoli, the third coach for Argentina in this World Cup cycle.
Lionel Messi and Argentina need some help to qualify for the World Cup. Sampaoli, whose teams are known for their attacking, has been in charge for three of those games. To ensure they have a chance they really need to win their last game in Ecuador, which is easier said than done.
However, Argentina have not won away to Ecuador since 1996, giving Sampaoli's side a tough final test to make it to global football's biggest stage.
"The situation is not comfortable, but the ranking still depends on us". The final match of their South American campaign is on October 10 against Ecuador in Quito. "Since I started working for the team, we have a psychologist because it's important".
Playmaker Gago is one of three players of Argentine first division leaders Boca added to Sampaoli's squad after the weekend's league action along with uncapped midfielder Pablo Perez and striker Dario Benedetto.
Sampaoli said Lionel Messi's team was "angry" with the result, that came in front of a sell-out home crowd in Buenos Aires, but the coach remains confident they will make it to Russian Federation in 2018.