A World Cup Without Argentina?

No longer impossible, but from a sporting point of view still inconceivable. A World Cup without Messi, without Aguero, without the spectacular Argentine supporters, without Diego? Argentina need to win their last two qualifiers to be certain of at least the playoff berth they occupy at present in fifth place in the South American group. Already qualified Brazil and Paraguay – congratulations – will be playing in tune-up matches with an opportunity to audition players and provide their youth with some exposure. But the battle for the final two spots and the play-off berth is captivating. Looking at the table:

Chile 16 8 3 5 27 20 7 27
Ecuador 16 6 5 5 21 23 -2 23
Argentina 16 6 4 6 20 19 1 22
Uruguay 16 5 6 5 26 18 8 21

Chile would clinch World Cup qualification with a win in either of its last two matches, away at Colombia or home against Ecuador. However, if Chile do not take at least a point in Colombia, they will likely play at home under massive pressure against Ecuador, both teams’ automatic qualification on the line. At a minimum it appears Chile may have locked the play-off spot.

Ecuador v. Uruguay is vital for both teams. An Ecuador win eliminates Uruguay and sets up a potentially dramatic match in Santiago on October 13. A draw will benefit Argentina, while keeping both teams’ hopes alive. A Uruguay win will place Ecuador in a must win situation in Chile and provide Uruguay with control of its fate in its last match, home to Argentina. Winning in Quito altitude is a massive task, but Uruguay have a lot of talent and time to prepare. This game is the key to the group.

Argentina will presumably pummel bottom of the group Peru at home and get to 25 points, but then all Argentine eyes will be on Ecuador – Uruguay. If somehow Uruguay earn three points in Quito, it would set up a historic encounter in Montevideo between the arch rivals across the Rio de la Plata with the winner clinching and the loser enduring years of suffering. What is certain is that South America World Cup qualification will come down to the final whistle, dramatically. The schedule (home teams first):

Sat., Oct. 10

Argentina vs. Peru
Ecuador vs. Uruguay
Colombia vs. Chile
Venezuela vs. Paraguay

Sun., Oct. 11
Bolivia vs. Brazil

Tue., Oct. 13

Peru vs. Bolivia
Uruguay vs. Argentina
Paraguay vs. Colombia
Brazil vs. Venezuela
Chile vs. Ecuador