A World Cup without Messi?

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With Argentina's World Cup qualifying hopes hinging on Tuesday's game with Ecuador, Messi is again bearing the brunt of criticism in his homeland.

But it can justifiably be used to describe Argentina's visit to Ecuador in the final round of Russian Federation 2018 qualifiers, with La Albiceleste faced by the galling possibility of missing a first World Cup since 1970.

That's the bad news for the Albiceleste.

Anything less and they're likely to sit out the tournament in Russian Federation the way Pedernera's team did in Mexico 48 years earlier.

These rumours reached the media in South America. A win will guarantee the visitors a ticket to Russian Federation, while any other result will leave them sweating on events elsewhere.

In South America, the top-four countries in the 10-team round robin league qualify for Russian Federation automatically, with the fifth-place team entering the intercontinental playoffs to play New Zealand. Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile are all fighting for the remaining spots. Chile are third with Colombia fourth, both with 26 points. But manager Jorge Celico - who was appointed a few weeks ago to replace Gustavo Quinteros - has said the team wants to end the qualifying campaign with a win over Argentina.

Furthermore, Jorge Sampaoli's side are now 10/1 outsiders to go one step further in Russian Federation next Summer, then they did at Brazil in 2014, where they suffered an excruciating extra time final defeat at the hands of Mario Götze and Germany.

Despite being able to call upon Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria throughout the campaign, Argentina have only scored only 16 times in 17 games.

"I proposed that after Noel Gallagher, who leaves at seven, we will televise the game of Argentina and then play U2", Daniel Grinbank, the organiser of the event, told La Nacion.

Lying a place and a point behind Argentina, Paraguay play host to Venezuela knowing that they will, in all likelihood, have to win to go through. Therefore, we believe he will lead the side this Wednesday, and will score the first goal of the game in Ecuadorian soil. It's going to be a nervous 90 minutes for him.

Argentina are in sixth place in the 10-team South American group.

If Brazil beat Chile and Argentina win in Ecuador, Messi's side will qualify automatically.

The thought of a World Cup without Lionel Messi is one football romantics would rather not contemplate.

Things are not looking good, can Messi do it on his own?

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