If Argentina are going to struggle like this without Lionel Messi, the South American powerhouses could very well miss out on playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. With Messi receiving a four match ban hours before kickoff, Argentina went down to Bolivia in a major blow to their hopes of qualifying automatically to Russia.
The South American qualifiers are one of the most exciting leagues in the world, and while Brazil are running away with it at the top, the fight for the remaining three automatic places is heating up with every passing game.
Last Thursday, Argentina picked up a vital 1-0 win over Chile, thanks to a Messi goal of course, which pushed them into that top four. However, after falling flat against Bolivia, sans their inspirational superstar, Argentina now find themselves out of that top four again and needing to make a big run in order to book their tickets to Russia for the FIFA World Cup next year.
As it stands, Brazil top the table with 33 points from 14 matches, and have qualified for the 2018 World Cup thanks to their win on Tuesday. Colombia are second on 24 points, with Uruguay third on 23 points. Chile are fourth and also have 23 points, while Argentina have 22. Ecuador are sixth, having picked up 20 from 14 matches, with Paraguay and Peru on 18 each. Bolivia and Venezuela are on 10 and six points respectively
This is a game that Argentina should have really won, even with Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia all missing. Bolivia are pretty much out of the running for a place in the 2018 World Cup, while Argentina had all the motivation in the world to try and take the three points.
Instead, it was Juan Carlos Arce who opened the scoring in La Paz just past the half hour, with Marcelo Martins then doubling the lead eight minutes into the second half.
Argentina, with the likes of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero in their lineup, could not find the goal to make it interesting, let alone the equaliser.
Brazil continued their dominance in the qualifiers, easing past Paraguay 3-0, with Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo the scorers. That result was good news for Argentina, because Paraguay could have moved to within a point of the fifth-placed side with a win.
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Chile bounced back from the Argentina defeat by beating Venezuela 3-1. Chile opened the scoring through Alexis Sanchez in just the fourth minute of the game, before, three minutes later, the score was 2-0 thanks to Esteban Paredes.
The match was done on 22 minutes when Paredes completed his brace, with Salomon Rondon scoring the consolation goal for Venezuela two minutes past the hour.
Colombia firmed their grip in the top four with a 2-0 victory over Ecuador, thanks to goals from James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado.
Uruguay lost their hold on second place, after they went down to Peru. Carlos Sanchez opened the scoring for Uruguay on 30 minutes, only for Pablo Guerrero to level the match up again give minutes later. Edison Flores then scored the winner on 62 minutes to keep Peru in the hunt for a top four place.
Results: Bolivia 2-0 Argentina; Ecuador 0-2 Colombia; Brazil 3-0 Paraguay; Chile 3-1 Venezuela; Peru 2-1 Uruguay.
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