If you ever thought UEFA qualification for a World Cup was tough, spare a thought for South American teams. The CONMEBOL campaign pitches 10 nations into a gruelling 18-game campaign, and right now there’s a very real possibility that the 2018 World Cup won’t feature Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero or Gonzalo Higuain.
With 10 games gone and eight remaining, Argentina sit sixth in the table, two spots behind the four automatic qualifying places, while Chile currently occupy the inter-confederation play-off place in fifth.
The two-time World Cup champions have won just four of their 10 fixtures, dropping points already to Ecuador and Venezuela.
Curiously for a side of such attacking prowess, La Albiceleste have netted just 11 times, and it’s for that reason they sit behind Chile, who have scored five more.
Ecuador and Colombia sit third and fourth only a point ahead of Argentina, but while automatic qualification is still very much achievable, their next run of fixtures aren’t pretty.
The 2014 runners-up head to Brazil next week having won just two of their last seven meetings with the five-time champs.
That’s followed by crucial clashes against Colombia and Chile, and Edgardo Bauza’s men must still head to second-placed Uruguay.
Their cause hasn’t been helped by a very unfortunate set of injuries to Messi, with the Barcelona wizard missing a full seven games of the campaign.
It’s no surprise to see that in the three matches the forward has played in, Argentina have won them all.
The 29-year-old is currently fully fit however, and that may tempt more than a few to back Argentina at 14/5 when they head to Belo Horizonte on Thursday.
Brazil are favourites at 21/20, but Argentina can’t afford to continue dropping points if they want to avoid shocking the world with their absence in 2018.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing