Football

Published on October 9th, 2017 | by Vieri Capretta

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Messi and Ronaldo face future without World Cup in qualifying crunch

Tuesday sees a huge day ever of international football with Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann fighting a World Cup battle

All eyes will be on Argentina on Tuesday: will Lionel Messi make it the World Cup? But it’s not just the future of the Albiceleste at stake: several national teams will be fighting for a place in Russia or at least a last-chance playoff to the World Cup.

Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Perù can all still make it to Russia, or grasp the one and only playoff spot. Jorge Sampaoli’s men fly to Ecuador, Perù face Colombia, Paraguay host Venezuela and Chile are away to Brazil.

Argentina need just a win to qualify, but so did Colombia last time round. In fact, so did Messi’s team itself against Perù. Everything is a lot harder on the pitch than it is on the cards in South America. It will be a breathtaking finale to the group, one of the most interesting ever. Like the season finale of a thrilling tv series. Three places up for grabs (including the playoff) for five teams. Someone big risks being left out: if it’s not Messi, it could be Radamel Falcao or Alexis Sanchez.

Slightly further north it isn’t too different, as USA, Panama and Honduras face off for the remaining two spots: one straight to the World Cup, one to the playoffs. USA need a win against Trinidad and Tobago to secure a place in Russia: should be easy. Panama and Honduras are level on points, with the former ahead for goal difference, and both host one of the two teams already qualified, respectively Mexico and Costa Rica. A slip up would mean a goodbye to the chance of being at the World Cup.

In Asia, Australia and Syria play in Sydney to decide who will go on to the playoff against a Concacaf side and continue to believe in a World Cup place. The 1-1 result in the first leg was unexpected, and showed all the mental strength the Syrians have. It won’t be easy for the Socceroos.

Africa still has a lot to offer too, as three groups still have to be decided. If it is easy for Tunisia to book the ticket to Russia – a point against Lybia being enough – Group C has a direct face-off as Ivory Coast host Morocco: the visitors need a point to top the group, but the hosts are just a point behind and will be in Russia with a victory.

Senegal have two games to play in Group D, both against South Africa: victories would secure the leadership of the group, but otherwise anything could happen, with Burkina Faso and Cape Verde Islands still on track.

The situation in Europe is starting to pan out, before the playoffs in November. As the Netherlands need to win by a seven goal difference over Sweden, Portugal need three points against Switzerland to top the group, the Swiss just needing a draw to keep the Portuguese behind.

France, Iceland and Serbia need a win to secure a top finish, whilst Croatia, Ireland and Ukraine need a win to be sure of a playoff spot, hoping a slip up could see them fly directly to Russia. Wales and Ireland face-off directly with point separating them: whoever wins gets a playoff finish.

A lot is at stake in these last games, with everyone risking something. From Messi to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, a lot of stars could be sitting at home come next June.

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About the Author

mm

A freelance journalist and broadcaster focusing on European soccer and currently featuring on Uefa.com, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Marca in English and more.



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