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Make or break for Messi and Argentina

first_img0Shares0000Argentina’s Lionel Messi (R) runs next to teammate Emiliano Rigoni during a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, on October 8, 2017, two days ahead of their FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier match against Ecuador, to be held in Quito © AFP / ALEJANDRO PAGNIQuito, Ecuador, Oct 10 – Lionel Messi and Argentina will be fighting for their World Cup lives here Tuesday as the South American heavyweights take on Ecuador aiming to avoid a humiliating failure to qualify for next year’s finals in Russia.The eyes of the football world will turn to Quito’s Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa to see if the once unthinkable prospect of a World Cup without Messi is to become a stunning reality. The two-time World Cup winners head into the final round of South American qualifiers in sixth place, outside the top four positions which grant automatic qualification and trailing fifth-placed Peru, who occupy the playoff spot, on goal difference.Yet with only two points separating third-placed Chile (26 points) from seventh-placed Paraguay (24), any number of permutations are possible.Argentina can simplify the equation for their nervous fans, however, if they manage to take all three points in Quito when the action kicks off at 6:30pm local time (2330 GMT).Ecuador’s players take part in a training session in Quito, on October 8, 2017, two days ahead of their FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier match against Argentina © AFP / JUAN RUIZA victory would guarantee they finish no worse than fifth place, putting them into a two-legged play-off against New Zealand they would be expected to win.But winning in the thin air of Quito, which is 2,850 metres (9,350 feet) above sea level, may be easier said than done.The Argentinians have an abysmal record in away games against Ecuador, with their last victory in Quito coming in 2001.Since then in World Cup qualifying games, they have been beaten twice, in 2005 and 2009, before scraping a 1-1 draw in 2013.Barcelona star Messi also has a record of struggling in games at altitude, vomiting on the pitch during a draw in the rarefied air of Bolivia four years ago.– ‘A catastrophe’ –The 30-year-old five-time Ballon D’Or winner also heads into the game knowing that next year’s finals in Russia may be his final chance to emulate Diego Maradona by winning a World Cup.The 2014 World Cup finalists face their moment of truth after a series of uninspiring performances that has the sporting world scratching its head at how a squad bristling with so much attacking talent has found scoring so difficult.Despite being able to call upon Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria throughout the campaign, Argentina have only scored 16 times in 17 games.Last Thursday’s 0-0 stalemate with Peru in Buenos Aires was Argentina’s third consecutive draw. The Albiceleste have now scored only once in their past four qualifying games.Beleaguered coach Jorge Sampaoli — the third of the qualifying campaign — has called on his players to follow Messi’s example.“If everyone is at Messi’s level against Ecuador, we will qualify,” he said on Monday. “I have a lot of hope.”For some Argentines, the troubles of the national team have been a long time coming. Sergio Batista, a member of the 1986 World Cup-winning team, was scathing in his assessment.“Argentina is all at sea. But this didn’t happen recently. It’s the end of a movie I’ve been watching for 10 years,” Batista said. “I believe in projects and planning, but in our football, there’s nothing. Seven managers in 10 years? And three in a single qualifying campaign? It wouldn’t happen anywhere else.”Elsewhere on Tuesday, Chile could seal their qualification with victory over Brazil in Sao Paulo. Brazil have already qualified for the finals and are guaranteed top spot.Uruguay meanwhile need only take a point in their home qualifier against already-eliminated Bolivia to be certain of progressing.One of the most high-stakes games comes in Lima, where Peru will aim to qualify for their first World Cup finals since 1982 when they take on Colombia.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

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first_imgGAA fans in Tyrone are furious today after a DUP MLA congratulated Donegal on beating them in the Ulster Championship – and then backed Donegal to beat ‘Londonderry’ in the final in three weeks’ time.DUP MLA Ian McCrea has sparked anger putting a message on Twitter to express his hopes that Mid Ulster teams lose out in the Ulster Senior Football Championship – to keep any celebrations out of the area.“Great to see Tyrone beat in the Ulster semis today hope Donegal beat Londonderry in the final to keep the celebrations out of Mid Ulster,” Mr McCrea tweeted. When asked what he meant he said Donegal’s victory would save “thousands of pounds of public money has been wasted on receptions for Tyrone”.GAA fans responded on Twitter, accusing the DUP man of sectarianism.However on response said: “Good to see you’re keeping up to date with the Ulster (9 counties) championship. What do you think of Donegal’s defence?”Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy – aware of several DUP members with Donegal links including Willie Hay – said: “Perhaps Ian’s hope that Donegal are victorious in the Ulster final is a vote of solidarity with his many party colleagues in Derry, and elsewhere, with Donegal birth rights and who will no doubt be quietly hoping Ian gets his wish. “Whatever sparked his interest and regardless of which team Ian will be pulling for in the Ulster final, it is to be welcomed and you never know – he might even some day attend the final in person and actually enjoy himself.”Mr Molloy added: “On a more serious note, it’s about time that Ian McCrea – and those who think like him – wakes up to the reality that Gaelic games attract more participants and supporters than any other sport in Ireland and many professional sporting organisations only dream of attracting the numbers that pass through the turnstiles at GAA facilities.“Mr McCrea’s churlish comments about the cost of civic receptions for victorious teams should be dismissed for the begrudging attitude it displays – i.e. anything that doesn’t fit in with my culture should not be celebrated.”SDLP deputy leader Patsy McGlone has wished the Derry side well and called for Mr McCrea to withdraw his “ridiculous” remarks.“Enda Muldoon and Conleith Gilligan from my home club, Ballinderry, are fine role models for young people across Ireland and their role in bringing Derry to the Ulster Final has evoked a huge sense of civic pride here,” he said. “I wish Derry all the best in the final at Clones and am sure that this comment will only spur them on to bring Sam back home in September.” FIREBRAND DUP MAN CONGRATULATES DONEGAL – THEN BACKS THEM TO BEAT ‘LONDONDERRY’ was last modified: June 27th, 2011 by gregShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:DerryDonega;donegalIan McCreasectarianismTyronelast_img read more

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