Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil superstar Neymar says he is delighted that former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi will be at the 2018 World Cup with Argentina.
La Pulga Atomica fired his country to the global showpiece in Russia next year with a stunning hat-trick during a crucial 3-1 victory over Ecuador in the CONMEBOL section of qualifying.
The result saw La Albiceleste jump from third to sixth in the standings, and they qualified automatically alongside Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.
Both players spent four seasons of success together at Barca where they formed arguably the world’s most dangerous attack along with Luis Suarez. Nonetheless, after departing for PSG ahead of the 2017/18 season, the 25-year-old showed he still held Messi in high regard.
Peru player Renato Tapia has admitted discussing World Cup qualification with Colombia captain Radamel Falcao during their final qualifying match on Tuesday night, but has denied the two sides made a pact.
Monaco forward Falcao was seen talking to Peru players while holding his hand across his mouth during the final few minutes of their 1-1 draw in Lima.
A defeat for Peru in the match would have seen them miss out on the playoff spot, with Chile taking fifth spot, while a win for Peru would have put Colombia at risk.
Several South American media organisations have published images of what they have christened the ‘Lima Pact’.
“In the last five minutes, the Colombians approached us. They knew what the situation was in the other games,” Tapia told local TV.
“So we managed the game as we needed to… I spoke with Radamel, who told me we were both qualified (as things stood), but it’s football and we play to win.”
Falcao has also denied making a pact.
However, when asked after the match what had been said, Falcao replied: “We knew what was happening in the other matches, we were playing with (the knowledge of) the other results and in that moment (I tried) to transmit that (to Peru).”
Football fans around the globe breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday after Lionel Messi’s stunning hat-trick ensured one of the world’s biggest stars would be appearing at next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
But for every Messi there was another superstar who didn’t make it.
FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the top players who won’t be in Russia come June.
Jan Oblak (Slovenia)
The Atletico Madrid stopper, voted La Liga’s best goalkeeper for the past two years, was denied a first World Cup appearance as Slovenia finished fourth in their qualifying group behind England, Slovakia and Scotland.
Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
The 32-year old winger has been a revelation at Old Trafford since converting to wing-back last season, but his silky skills and attacking prowess will be missing in Russia after Ecuador enjoyed a disappointing qualification campaign, finishing eighth overall in CONMEBOL.
Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Van Dijk missed out after the Netherlands could only finish third in UEFA qualifying Group A. The talented defender will now have all summer to finally secure a move away from the St. Mary’s after being denied the chance last year.
David Alaba (Austria)
Alaba has enjoyed great success at Bayern Munich, winning six Bundesliga titles and the Champions League, but he will miss out on a World Cup debut as Austria finished fourth in Group D behind Serbia.
Naby Keita (Guinea)
The Leipzig midfielder is the major star in the Guinea team, but unfortunately for him the rest of the squad cannot live up to the same standard. Keita’s side have won just one of their qualifying Group A games meaning he will have plenty of time to adjust following his upcoming summer move to Anfield.
Arturo Vidal (Chile)
A star of Chile’s last two World Cup campaigns, Bayern Munich lynchpin Vidal was suspended for Chile’s final match against Brazil as his team were beaten 3-0 and their elimination was confirmed.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia)
Another player who is the stand out for his nation, the Manchester United midfielder’s efforts were not enough to inspire his teammates to greater heights as Armenia finished fifth out of six teams in UEFA qualifying Group E.
Gareth Bale (Wales)
Bale will miss out on the chance to repeat his Euro 2016 heroics after a final match defeat at home to the Republic of Ireland saw Chris Coleman’s side eliminated. Injury and Wales’ repeated failure to qualify may mean Bale will never have the chance to showcase his skills on the World stage.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Another big miss for fans in Russia, Sanchez will miss the chance to torment the world’s defenders following Chile’s last-gasp elimination. The Arsenal star, however, may have other things on his mind as he tries to seal a rumoured switch away from the Emirates.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
One of the top strikers playing in Europe, the Bundesliga goal-machine consistently finds the net at the domestic level. It’s just a shame that playing for Gabon means he will likely never get an opportunity to do so against the world’s best.
Christian Pulisic (United States)
A revelation for Dortmund, Pulisic did his best to inspire the USMNT, scoring a superb goal in the loss to Trinidad and Tobago that sealed the fate of Bruce Arena’s team. Pulisic, though, at least has time on his side and will surely get the chance one day to make his mark on the world stage.
The United States have missed out on next year’s World Cup, with head coach Bruce Arena accepting responsibility.
The US were beaten 2-1 by Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, a result which sees them surrender their place at Russia 2018 to Honduras.
"Clearly we are very disappointed. We had everything there for us today. No excuses for us not getting a second goal and coming away with at least a point.
"It's a blemish for us. We should not be staying at home for this World Cup and I take responsibility.
"It never mattered to us the scores of the other games. We failed on the day. No excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.
"It's clearly good for CONCACAF that it was such a competitive go at it this time around. Certainly, Mexico have been the dominant team in the Hexagonal. Costa Rica proved to be of quality. And the teams that finished third [Panama], fourth [Honduras] and fifth [USA] were pretty inconsistent throughout the campaign."
Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama will be representing the CONCACAF region at next year’s finals, while Honduras will had into an intercontinental play-off with the hopes of a joining them.
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"We are very satisfied," Tabarez said. "Today we came to play for us, for the people and to try to get what we wanted to win.
"I think because of how well our young players in Europe have adapted, we have a promising outlook.
"It has been demonstrated, beyond the ups and downs, there is a way of doing things that allows us to be competitive.
"[South American qualifying is] the toughest competition I've ever had and no one is giving us a title, or a medal. It's only qualification, but we value it the same way we did with the World Cup in 2010 or 2014."