Argentina came out of the Copa América Final in somewhat of a slump after not being able to close out the game and losing 4-2 in penalties. They haven’t been able to get into a solid form, picking up only eleven points in the seven games after the final. This is largely due to the fact that they aren’t performing well against the teams they should be. Argentina lost to Paraguay (8th in CONMEBOL) and picked up draws against Peru (7th in CONMEBOL) and Venezuela (10th in CONMEBOL).
As if things weren’t tough enough for Argentina, star forward Lionel Messi has been handed a four game suspension after he was seen throwing his arms in the air and berating an assistant referee after being called for a foul in Argentina’s World Cup Qualifying match against Chile. Argentina went on to win and picked up a big three points, but the loss of one of the best players in the world could spell disaster for this already struggling Argentine side.
Argentina played Bolivia this past Tuesday in their first match under Messi’s suspension and Chile capitalized on their opportunity, winning 1-0 over Argentina. The win doesn’t do much for Bolivia, as it moves them to only 10 points in World Cup Qualifying, 12 points behind a chance to make the World Cup. However, it could be a game changer for Argentina as it drops them to 5th and puts them into a playoff with the 3rd place team from the Oceania Football Confederation’s qualifying. Messi will also miss the next three qualifying matches against Uruguay, Venezuela, and Peru, before returning for the final qualifying match against Ecuador.
The loss to Bolivia means that the Argentine National team has now only won one of their last seven games without Messi. Argentina only holds a two point lead over Ecuador and only a four point lead over Peru. Games against teams they’ve already struggled against could devastate the Argentine’s chances at making the World Cup. Argentina was only able to draw against Peru and Venezuela and beat Uruguay just 1-0 with Messi, so without the legendary player, this team could struggle to win or even draw to hold on to that fifth spot. If they can hold on to the 5th spot, then they should easily be able to qualify for the World Cup against an Oceanic team, however making it that far will take a lot of hard work from this team to avoid not qualifying for the first time since 1970. This team hasn’t been playing like a top tier team recently and the loss of Lionel Messi could mean that one of the best players to ever play the game will miss the World Cup and currently it looks like that’ll be the case.