Could Argentina (and Lionel Messi) Actually Miss the World Cup?

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Argentina players leaving the field at halftime of a World Cup qualifying match against Bolivia on Tuesday. Argentina lost, 2-0.

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Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

With four games left to play in South American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Argentina finds itself in fifth place, with only four automatic qualifying spots. Worse, its star, Lionel Messi, has been suspended for four games for verbally abusing an assistant referee.

Could a World Cup actually be contested without Argentina for the first time since 1970?

As it stands now, Brazil has one spot locked up with 33 points. After that, it’s very close.

Colombia has 24 points, and Uruguay and Chile have 23 each to hold the top four spots. Argentina has 22.

Moreover, Ecuador at 20 and Peru and Paraguay at 18 each are well within striking distance.

On Tuesday night, Argentina was outplayed in Bolivia, 2-0, as Messi served the first game of his suspension. He will miss the next three games as well, barring a successful appeal.

Though Messi is just one player, he is crucial…

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