Friday, 6 October 2017

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo: Big stars who could miss the World Cup

World Cup qualifying is drawing to a close, but some stellar names could miss Russia 2018. We see who could be watching the action from their couch next summer. Argentina: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano The list of talent available to coach Jorge Sampaoli is obscene, yet Argentina are still in big, big trouble. A World Cup without Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi would be bad enough, but the other names on this list are world-class performers. Argentina realistically need a victory away to Ecuador -- where they've won only once since 1960 -- which would guarantee at least a playoff against New Zealand. But they might well need help from Brazil (to draw with or beat Chile) to qualify automatically. Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo Holder of the Ballon d'Or, winner of back-to-back Champions League titles and talisman of the current European champions, it doesn't get much bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal are currently second in their group and trail leaders Switzerland by three points. The two nations meet in Lisbon on Tuesday, and if Portugal do not win then it will be the playoffs for Cristiano and Co.
United States: Christian Pulisic The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is seen as one of the hottest young talents around, and his stock would surely rise further with an appearance at the World Cup. Yet United States are outside the automatic places and defeat to Panama on Friday would leave them with the chance of a playoff at best. The U.S. do know, though, that two wins this week will definitely take them direct to Russia. Gabon: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's decision to sit out Gabon's crucial qualifier against table-toppers Ivory Coast last month, which they lost 3-0, means they have only a slim chance of edging them out for a place in the finals. So the Borussia Dortmund striker, one of Europe's most prolific forwards of recent seasons, is unlikely to make it to Russia. Senegal: Sadio Mane Liverpool's flying wide man is one of the most exciting players in the Premier League, but he may not grace Russia. That said, Senegal still have qualification in their own hands with a quashed tie against South Africa still to replay. If they win their three remaining matches they are there, if not it could be a summer of rest.

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