Can Argentina qualify for the World Cup without Messi

Can Argentina qualify for the World Cup without Messi?

They’ll be without their talismanic skipper for four games after he got banned for insulting a match official. They’ve played one of those games, and yes, they lost! Can Argentina qualify for the World Cup without Lionel Messi despite four World Cup qualifying games without him?

Lionel Messi doesn’t come across as a guy who would haul abuses at anyone, not the least a match official. But even one of the world greatest footballers can lose his cool sometimes. The game between Argentina and Chile proved to be one of those games. With the game tied at 0-0, some tension was beginning to mount for the Albiceleste.

An incident spotted by the assistant referee led to a decision going against Messi – the Barcelona star became instantly infuriated with the assistant referee, Marcelo van Gasse, and hauled insults at the match official. Although Messi later claimed the insults were directed not at the referee but to the air – the fact that he didn’t exchange handshakes with the official after the game, didn’t help his case.

The match referee didn’t spot the incident, neither did he report it; but video evidence will bring the incident to light later on. Messi was seen to have said the words: “F*** off” to the official. Messi was subsequently banned for four games by FIFA. That ban also came with a souvenir fine of 10,000 Swiss francs – the equivalent of $10,000. It meant that Messi will miss games against Bolivia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru – he would, however, be available for the last qualifying game against Ecuador.

A statement by FIFA on Lionel Messi’s ban reads:

“This decision reflects the consistent case law that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has applied in previous and similar cases,”

Messi's ban is a devastating blow for Argentina and it proved to be so in the game against Bolivia – which was the first Messi missed. In the high altitude atmosphere of La Paz, Argentina was outclassed 2-nil by a Bolivia team who had only won twice in 13 games and sat second from bottom with 7 points.

Argentina with and without Messi

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Argentina can’t do without Lionel Messi. Check the Argentine team before any game, if you don’t see Lionel Messi in the lineup, it’s likely that the Albiceleste will either draw or lose that game – it’s been that bad.

Argentina has only managed to win one game without Lionel Messi in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers – that win came as far back as 2015 – a 1-nil win away to Columbia.

A 2-nil loss to Ecuador, a 0-0 draw away to Paraguay, a 1-1 draw at home to Brazil, a 1-nil win away to Columbia, 2-2 draws away to Venezuela and Peru, a 1-nil loss at home to Paraguay and recently the 2-nil loss away to Bolivia, sums up Argentina’s 8 World Cup qualifying games played without Messi. That gives us a 12.5% win rate for Argentina without Messi; they’ve taken a paltry seven points out of a possible 24 without the Barcelona superstar.

With Messi, Argentina has been the opposite of the above. They’ve won five of the six game he’s started – the only loss coming in that 3-0 defeat to high-flying Brazil, who have already qualified for Russia 2018 World Cup. With an 83% win-rate every time Messi plays and 12% when he doesn’t, everyone should really pray for Argentina now.

Can they qualify without Messi?

Only four South American teams can qualify automatically for the World Cup from the CONMEBOL standings. The fifth team will fight for a spot by playing an intercontinental play-off match against a country from Oceania.

Argentina is currently fifth in the CONMEBOL standings with 22 points from 14 games. Argentina’s toughest game without Lionel Messi will be the game against Uruguay. If they can beat Uruguay and avoid the banana peels posed by bottom-placed Venezuela and Peru they could well climb to fourth.

However, it won’t be that easy for Argentina – the opponents of the Albiceleste are also desperate to qualify for the World Cup and won’t give them an easy ride. Whatever the case, they would struggle without Messi but they’re expected to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup - even if it takes an intercontinental play-off for them to do so.

About the Author Kingsley

I am a football/soccer connoisseur who enjoys crafting interesting articles like the one you just read.

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