BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza said on Wednesday that he's worried about his team's qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Argentina reached the final of the 2014 World Cup and can count on Lionel Messi, the five-time winner of the world player of the year award. But the team's progress was checked this week after FIFA ordered Bolivia to forfeit two World Cup qualifiers for fielding an ineligible player.
Chile gained two points and is now in fifth place in the South American qualifying standings, above Argentina. Only the top four countries qualify automatically for Russia, with the fifth-place team going to a continental playoff.
''I'm worried because the qualifying is still not assured and must still be won,'' Bauza told The Associated Press in an interview at the Argentine Football Association headquarters in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Bolivia's soccer federation announced Wednesday that it would appeal against the FIFA sanctions.
Bauza said Argentina would have to wait for Bolivia to file its appeal and then for FIFA to respond. ''But beyond this conflict with Bolivia, the qualifying is still purely and exclusively up to us,'' he said. ''I still think that if we win all our home games, we'll classify to the World Cup.
If Argentina wins all its home games, the team will reach 28 points, the same total it reached in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa under former coach Diego Maradona.
''That's our main goal,'' Bauza said. ''It's what's most important now.''
Argentina faces a key World Cup qualifier against archrival Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Nov. 10 and at home against Colombia in San Juan five days later.
''These will be two games with two direct rivals ... it would be good to at least get four points.''Bauza said.