- CONMEBOL's World Cup qualifying campaign has been insane, and it's due to provide an appropriately wild ending–which could result in Messi and Argentina missing out on a trip to Russia.
With about a quarter of an hour to go in South America's World Cup qualifying matchday on Thursday, things were a bit too calm. At that point, with three simultaneous matches taking place, only one goal had been scored, this following a pair of 0-0 draws in Bolivia-Brazil and Uruguay-Venezuela. The ramifications of the results, as they stood, were strong enough, but it just seemed a little too un-CONMEBOLish.
Then the wheels feel off.
Colombia's ticket to Russia was put on hold with two late Paraguay goals after two goalkeeper gaffes gave the visitors renewed life. Chile's hopes went from great, to dashed, to super in a span of a minute, thanks to the heroics of Alexis Sanchez. In short: CONMEBOL happened.
And amid all of this, we're left with the real possibility that Argentina won't be in the World Cup. As it stands, Argentina is out, with one very big game to go. A nation that boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi can't seem to score, and while all weren't available or used Thursday, there's little in the way of an explanation for how Argentina–Argentina!–hasn't scored in the run of play in qualifying since last November. Its only goals since have come either via Messi penalty kick or Venezuela own goal.
A 0-0 draw for Messi & Co. vs. Peru, despite taking aim at heroic goalkeeper Pedro Gallese with 22 shots at La Bombonera, has the powerful nation on the outside looking in, in sixth place and staring at the possibility of a first missed World Cup since 1970.
And so we're left with a final matchday that is sure have all on the edge of their seats. After 17 matchdays, only one team, Brazil, has qualified. Six nations mathematically remain in contention for three automatic berths and a chance at a last-gasp playoff, and the permutations and scenarios are endless.
|x- 1. Brazil||38 points||+27 Goal Differential||vs. Chile|
|2. Uruguay||28 points||+10 GD||vs. Bolivia|
|3. Chile||26 points||+2 GD (26 goals scored)||at Brazil|
|4. Colombia||26 points||+2 GD (20 goals scored)||at Peru|
|5. Peru||25 points||+1 GD (26 goals scored)||vs. Colombia|
|6. Argentina||25 points||+1 GD (16 goals scored)||at Ecuador|
|7. Paraguay||24 points||-5 GD||vs. Venezuela|
x - Clinched World Cup berth
Uruguay, which would have qualified with a win Thursday at last-place Venezuela, hosts ninth-place Bolivia and should secure its place with ease. But after that? Chile may be breathing a bit easier now, but it must succeed at Brazil with all to play for. Peru hosts Colombia with both needing to win—while Peru monitors Argentina's goal differential—to control their fate.
A win at Ecuador for Argentina secures at the very least fifth place and a spot in an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand, but Jorge Sampaoli's side has shown that nothing can be taken for granted. Ecuador may be riding a five-match losing streak in qualifying, but it also beat Argentina earlier on in the round in Buenos Aires and would love nothing more than to bring its star-studded side down along with it.
Tuesday is going to be insane. In perfect CONMEBOL fashion.