Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970, stumbling to a 0-0 draw against Peru before a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires. Only one round of qualifying remains in South America
Argentina, the runner-up to Germany in the World Cup three years ago in Brazil, plays on Tuesday against Ecuador in the thin air of Quito in the Andes. The Argentines are in sixth place, with the top four teams advancing automatically. The fifth-place team can advance by winning a playoff against New Zealand.
Brazil has already qualified, and drew 0-0 against Bolivia on Thursday. Brazil has 38 points, followed by: Uruguay (28), Chile (26), Colombia (26), Peru (25), Argentina (25) and Paraguay (24).
Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia are eliminated.
It’s too close to call. But Uruguay is expected to get through the final round on Tuesday. After that, four teams are chasing the two automatic spots.
That will leave two teams trying to reach the playoff, which looks like Argentina’s only route. It must win at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) in Quito and get some help.
In other scores on Thursday: Paraguay beat Colombia 2-1, Chile beat Ecuador 2-1 and Uruguay was held to a 0-0 draw at Venezuela.
The last matches feature: Uruguay vs. Bolivia, Peru vs. Colombia, Ecuador vs. Argentina, Brazil vs. Chile and Paraguay vs. Venezuela.
Brazil has already qualified for the World Cup and appeared relaxed in a 0-0 draw against Bolivia despite playing at 3,650 meters (11,900 feet) in the Andes. Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was the player of the match with three keys saves against Brazil star Neymar. Tite is undefeated in 11 qualifying matches since taking over as Brazil coach, including nine wins.
Brazil wraps up qualifying on Tuesday in Sao Paulo against Chile. Bolivia, already out of contention for the World Cup, finishes at Uruguay.