Sampaoli still confident of reaching World Cup

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli is still confident of World Cup qualification despite dropping more points in Thursday’s draw with Peru.

Not even some trademark Lionel Messi magic could break the 0-0 scoreline in Buenos Aires, as Argentina dropped out of the qualification spots for Russia 2018.

“I am still confident that we will be at the World Cup,” Sampaoli said, with just one match left to turn things around.

“Today was a very good game. We just missed a goal. I am very hopeful and excited about what is coming. The team never gave up, put in a huge effort and deserved another result.”

Argentina’s final qualifier will be away to Ecuador next Wednesday, when three points could potentially save them from an embarrassing absence at next year’s tournament.

They are level on 25 points with fifth-placed Peru, who occupy the play-off spot, while Colombia and Chile are in fourth and third respectively with 26 points, giving them automatic qualification as things stand.

With Colombia taking on Peru on the final matchday, one of the them will have to drop points, while Chile could also be leapfrogged in the standings should they fail to win against already-qualified Brazil in Sao Paulo.

Chile, Colombia, Peru, and potentially even Paraguay can all make it to Russia, either directly or via an inter-continental play-off, with victory on the final matchday. The same is true for Sampaoli’s Argentina, who simply must beat Ecuador on Wednesday.