Argentine soccer star Leo Messi came to the rescue of his county’s team just when it needed him the most, ensuring it a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Messi overcame a rough start in the qualifying match against Ecuador, with a hat trick that gave Argentina a 1-3 victory .
In other qualifying matches, Paraguay was defeated by Venezuela, while Chile was eliminated after its defeat by Brazil. Peru and Colombia were tied 1-1; as a result, the Peruvians will move on to face New Zealand in the playoffs. Uruguay, meanwhile, assured itself a place in the World Cup with a 4-2 victory over Bolivia.
“Football owes Messi a World Cup,” Argentine manager Jorge Sampaoli said, following his team’s victory over Ecuador, which can be put down to suffering, faith and to Messi himself. Ecuador scored its first goal only 40 seconds into the match, forcing the Argentines to mount a comeback that turned out to be Messi´s moment. Twelve minutes into the game, the Barcelona forward evened up the scoreboard; later, he scored two more goals, at 12 minutes and at 19 minutes.
Messi’s third and final goal of the match came in typical style: a quick run outside the box past three defenders to launch a left-footed strike to the top left corner. After that it was time to celebrate for Argentina, a team that managed to qualify for the World Cup Finals after struggling much of the qualifying rounds.
The big loser in the round was Chile, which was eliminated by Brazil, 3-0. That result, and the tie between Peru and Colombia, left the Chileans out of the running and prompted the team’s manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, to announce he will leave his post. Colombia now stands at fourth place in the classification, while Peru will go on to face New Zealand in the playoffs.
Paraguay’s hopes to qualify were quashed by Venezuela, which won its ticket to the World Cup with a victory at home. Uruguay defeated Bolivia, assuring that it will also be among the chosen few.
— CONMEBOL.com (@CONMEBOL) 11 de octubre de 2017
The United States won´t go to the World Cup; Honduras moves on to the playoffs
For the first time since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the U.S. soccer team won´t participate in the competition. Following their loss to Trinidad and Tobago and the victories by Honduras and Panama, the Americans were relegated to fifth place and eliminated. Panama did manage to pass, by defeating Costa Rica 1-2; Honduras will also enter the playoffs, after its 3-2 victory over Mexico. Panama, which is seeking to enter its third consecutive World Cup, will face Australia in the next round.
Portugal and France qualify for the World Cup; Holland has worse luck
In Europe, the classification phase ended with Portugal and France both qualifying. Holland wasn´t so lucky; its 2-0 win over Sweden didn’t provide the Dutchmen with the seven-goal difference they needed to qualify.
The European teams that are now qualified for the World Cup are: Russia (as the organizer), Germany, France, Portugal, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and Iceland.
The European teams that will go to playoffs are: Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark (heads of their sections), along with Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Greece.
Up to now, only two African teams have qualified: Nigeria and Egypt. The four Asian teams that will go to Russia in 2018 are Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The teams that have already won their ticket to Russia 2018
Up to now, 23 national teams have qualified for the 2018 World Cup. This week, the classification phase will end in Europe, South America and Central America, leaving only three African teams to be qualified and the six that manage to win their playoff matches.
Panama, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina were the last teams to win their ticket to the World Cup. The other teams that will participate are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, England, Spain, Poland, Iceland, Serbia, Egypt, Nigeria, France, Portugal and Costa Rica.
Top picks in the draw
Following Argentina´s victory over Ecuador and the classification of Portugal and France, it’s now known which eight teams which will be the highest-ranked in the draw to be held on December 1 at the Kremlin State Palace in Moscow. Russia (the host country), Germany (reigning champion) and, in order by the current FIFA ranking: Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France.
The Soccer World Cup will kick off on June 14, 2018, with the opening match at the Luzhiki Stadium in Moscow, where the final will also be held on Sunday, July 15.