Messi’s Absence Threatens Argentina Hopes

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Lionel Messi, having reversed his decision to quit international soccer with a view to playing at another World Cup, could miss out on Russia 2018 if Argentina continue their downward spiral.

Argentina played poorly in their last three qualifiers without the injured Messi and languish in fifth place in the South American group with Paraguay and Chile hot on their tails.

Only four countries are guaranteed a place at the finals.

Midfield general Javier Mascherano was under no illusions when he said: “It’s clear the team need to react, and it’s not their attitude – there’s plenty of that – but in terms of their game.”

Unable to compensate for Messi’s absence despite a pool of players with big reputations in European club football, Argentina were jeered and whistled by their fans after Tuesday’s humiliating 1-0 home defeat by Paraguay in Cordoba.

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