Not even a change in style or atmosphere at the Bombonera helped Argentina beat Peru and take a step towards next summer's World Cup. They were unable to dominate Peru, the stadium change unable to alter the team's play. The Albiceleste were poor, predictable and a long way from the level these players show with their respective club sides.
Sergio Romero; Mercado, Otamendi, Mascherano, Marcos Acuña; Banega (Fernando Gago, 60' - Enzo Pérez '66), Biglia, Di María (Rigoni 46'), 'Papu' Gómez; Leo Messi y Benedetto
Pedro Gallese; Rodríguez, Corzo, Araujo, Trauco ; Flores, Tapia (Pedro Aquino 78'), Peña (Cartagena 53'), Yotún; Paolo Guerrero y Farfán (Andy Polo 70').
Wilton Sampaio (Brasil). Amonestó a los argentinos Biglia (14') y Acuña (89') y a los peruanos Farfán (22'), Tapia (37') y Guerrero (60')
La Bombonera. 42.000 espectadores
Only Lionel Messi, the defenders and goalkeeper 'Gato' Romero, who made a brilliant save late on from Guerrero's free kick, managed to save a generally bad game. Once more, Messi, alone without collaboration from Ever Banega and Di Maria, the team's weakest players, was the only one who tried to become the hero and win the game.
Sampaoli's bet on Di Maria on the right and the inclusion of Acuña and Papu Gomes on the left didn't come off. There was no association play and everything relied exclusively on the genius and talent of Messi, but the Barcelona man cannot do it all on his own: create and score.
An intelligent Peru waited for Argentina with two lines of four. With Tapia on Messi, to stop him receiving the ball, and with Flores and Peña in the middle of the pitch to battle with Biglia for the ball. It's true that the attacked infrequently and they only had one clear chance in open play, which fell to Farfan, but even so, they managed to stop their opposition feeling comfortable.
The plan of Sampaoli did not work and his team finished the first half in anarchy, with Messi's cross headed over by Benedetto.
Argentina GOT WORSE ONCE AGAIN
Argentina started the second half at pace, as their coach asked. Biglia and Messi combined to almost open the scoring, but the latter's shot thumped the right post. It was the best chance of the second half. Sampaoli got his changes wrong -- Gago for Banega and Rigoni for Di Maria didn't work and, to top it all off, Gago got seriously injured, possibly ligaments and Enzo Perez had to come on -- leaving Paulo Dybala and Icardi on the bench.
Now, Argentina's spot in Russia comes down to next weeks game against Ecuador (who cannot qualify). With Brazil already assured of their spot, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay are playing for three direct spots and one playoff spot. As things stand, it's Argentina and Paraguay who would miss out.