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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Argentina's World Cup hopes hanging by a thread

Messi needs to produce magic in Ecuador

Footballing superstar Lionel Messi
1 of 1

12.30am, Wednesday

Make sure there are plenty of caffeine supplies in the house, get yourself near a computer and use the live in-play streaming service offered by many bookmakers to watch the drama unfold in the final round of fixtures in South American World Cup qualifying.

Brazil have qualified but the three other automatic slots plus the playoff position to face New Zealand are up for grabs with six nations in the mix and two strong sides will miss out on the trip to Russia.

Incredibly, given the talent at their disposal, Argentina are one of those currently outside the qualification spots and the footballing giants have to win away to Ecuador at high altitude to guarantee Lionel Messi will be among the stars on show next summer.

Bet365 rate Argentina 3-1 to miss out and Coral are 1-3 they find a way to the finals but they are not playing well enough to consider backing at artificially short odds in Ecuador.

Messi will probably come up big when his country need him most, although Argentina have scored just 16 times in 17 qualifiers.

They will, however, meet opponents who are in no kind of form and are already eliminated which could count for plenty if Ecuador lack the energy to play at an intensity which may ordinarily unsettle Argentina.

A draw could be enough for Messi and his mates depending on results elsewhere as fifth-placed Peru host fourth-placed Colombia.

Uruguay are almost certain to book a World Cup spot and sixth-placed Paraguay can put the squeeze on those above by beating Venezuela which could leave Chile massively vulnerable.

Chile's last four away games in Conmebol qualifying have produced only one point and no goals. On that basis Brazil are a fair price to beat them despite having secured their qualification months ago.

Brazil picked a strong side for their 0-0 draw in Bolivia last time out and seem determined to carry on their excellent qualification results.

It's also the final round of Concacaf qualifying and USA will reach the World Cup with a win away to Trinidad and Tobago, although such is their goal difference a point should also do it.

Panama and Honduras look set to battle it out for the playoff spot with both nations at home to already-qualified pair Costa Rica and Mexico.

1pt 3-4 Betfair, BoyleSports, Hills

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Sixth-placed Paraguay can put the squeeze on those above by beating Venezuela which could leave Chile massively vulnerable
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