De Futebol Thoughts from the 2018 World Cup

The 2018 World Cup is in the books. France is the champion. No one expected France to win the whole enchilada.

The French did.

This team flew under the radar. Everyone expected Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Spain and even Mexico to win it. Oh, how wrong the so-called pundits were.

The American press were building up the great pretender Mexico. After the Mexican win over Germany The USA press expected Mexico to make it to at least the quarterfinals.

Not so fast bucko, Brasil stood in the way and won with a strong 2-0 win.

Brasil lost to Belgium 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

Argentina barely made it out of the group stage. Thus, Argentinos earned the right to battle France in the round of sixteen.

In a matter of ten minutes in the second half France turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 advantage.

France won 4-3 however the final score was not the true reflection of how the French blew doors off of Argentina in that deadly eleven minute span to grab the match by the neck and choke the life out of a helpless Argentina squad.

The biggest surprise was Germany losing two matches in the group stage and thus bombed out and this quick exit shocked the Futebol world.

Japan almost made Belgium eat their own lunch in the round of sixteen. Belgium didn’t quit and scored three second half goals to win 3-2.

Belgium and France hooked up in the semifinals. The difference in the match was France’s lighten quick speed that led to the only goal in the match a header by Samuel Umtiti for the one nil win.

England came out of nowhere to earn a spot in the semifinals. Three Lions were the third youngest club in the World Cup. Nigeria was the youngest. France was the second youngest team assembled.

England lost a heart breaker to Croatia 2-1 in the semifinals. This devastating loss came on the heels of a thrilling 4-3 PK shootout win over Columbia the quarterfinals.

The two shockers of the 2018 World Cup were Russia making it to the quarterfinals. Russia defeated Spain 4-3 in a PK shootout. Spain crashed and burned out of the 2018 World Cup.

The other huge surprise was Croatia making to the finals against France.

The Croatians claimed Denmark, Russia and England on the way to the finals before losing to a superior French side 4-2.

Thus, in the end this 2018 World Cup was full of surprises however the quality of play was below par compared to other World Cups.

The cool thing about this World Cup the favorites wore the choke collar.

The Dogs won.

De Futebol A shoot out 4-3 win over Argentina! Uruguay Defeats Portugal 2-1!

France fell behind 2-1 in the early moments of the second half before scoring three second half goals to escape with a 4-3 win over Argentina.

France is now in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

The Guardians Jonathan Wilson:” Dreams can endure only so long before they are overwhelmed by reality – and there are few realities quite so brutally uncompromising as the pace and finishing of Kylian Mbappé, who scored twice and won a penalty in France’s 4-3 win.

After a grim trudge through the group stage, France, finally, are off and running and looking like potential champions. Lionel Messi, for all the hopes freighting his slight frame, will not be winning the World Cup this time.

Quite how Argentina have ended up as this strange botch-job of parts that don’t quite fit together, bound together by nothing more than the magic of Messi, is a question that cannot straightforwardly be answered but the fact is they are and, as such, were never likely to survive a meeting with a side that looked into their eyes and wasn’t cowed by their self-romanticising will to progress.

That will, though, remains ferociously strong. Until the midpoint of the second half, when they opened up a two-goal lead, the game was underpinned by the question of how France didn’t already have it won.

There had been talk of conjuring the repeat of 1990 when defeat to Cameroon inspired a defiant spirit that carried Argentina to the final and in some of the cruder challenges, it felt Argentina may be following the template rather too closely. But the difference between then and now is that that team could actually defend; this side can merely struggle.

The deployment of Messi as a false nine as Jorge Sampaoli, or whichever cabal of senior players picks the side these days, opted for a fourth different formation in four games, served only to deny the wide men a target when they got the ball in crossing positions.

Certainly it did nothing to add a defensive stability. Is all very well to play, as Sampaoli promised they would, with a knife between their teeth, but only if you can actually catch your opponents to use it. Argentina’s lack of pace is a problem that will never easily be resolved, and certainly not by playing the sort of high line they attempted early on. Perhaps Didier Deschamps’s France have become a fluent attacking unit; perhaps Argentina just made them appear so.

Thirteen minutes had gone when Ever Banega miscontrolled 30 yards from the French goal, allowing Mbappé to burst forwards. Nobody came close to catching him until Marcos Rojo hauled him down. Antoine Griezmann, who had already pinged a free-kick against the bar, rolled in the penalty. Six minutes later, Mbappé’s pace almost undid them again as he raced onto a quickly-taken Pogba free-kick and was tripped on the edge of the box by Nicolás Tagliafico, who was perhaps fortunate to receive only a yellow card. For them to play so high with defenders so slow against an attack so quick seemed mystifying.

Having scored one brilliant goal, Argentina, as they had against Nigeria, then added a second with the least implausible body-part available to them, as Messi’s ball back into the middle was deflected in by the left foot of Gabriel Mercado. Could they cling on? They could not, and didn’t even come close.

It took just nine minutes for Benjamin Pavard to conjure a goal the equal of Di María’s, cuffing a volley from the edge of the box into the top corner. Seven minutes after Argentina were cut apart on their right once again – the full-back areas have been a major problem all tournament. Lucas Hernández’s cross fell for Mbappé and he turned sharply to score again. As Argentina chased, the gaps simply grew wider and, from Olivier Giroud’s touch, Mbappé capitalised again. At 19, he is already a wonderfully efficient footballer.

Yet still Argentina were not quite finished, Sergio Agüero heading in a late third. From the grave, the hand thrust up through the soil, but it got no further. Argentina at last were done.

Deschamps’s side has been criticised for its ungainliness and its caution, for being too much about substance and not enough about style. On the day he became the longest-serving manager in France’s history, Deschamps could perhaps reflect that a little planning and a little stodge goes a lot further than a slow and shambolic defence and a nostalgic faith in a bastard spirit.

Uruguay defeated Portugal 2-1.

ESPN:” Two goals from Edinson Cavani earned Uruguay a place in the World Cup quarterfinals as they ended the dreams of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal with a 2-1 win in Sochi.

Cavani headed home before the break and, soon after Pepe had headed a second-half equaliser, scored the winner with a superb curling shot.

Portugal had been first to threaten, Joao Mario getting down the left and crossing to the far post where Bernardo Silva could not steer his header on target.

With six minutes gone, Bernardo Silva made progress down the other flank and laid the ball off to Ronaldo, who blasted a first-time effort straight at keeper Fernando Muslera.

But a minute later, Uruguay led when Cavani and Luis Suarez combined in style, Cavani’s pass finding Suarez and his cross converted by the striker at the far post, the ball seeming to go in off his face.

At the other end, Jose Fonte steered a downward header across goal and behind, although he appeared to be fouling defender Matias Vecino, and at the other end Suarez saw a cross deflected over after another sharp run had created danger.

Back came Portugal but, after a good spell of pressure, Joao Mario’s cross was too deep for Ronaldo and Muslera claimed.

Bernardo Silva and Goncalo Guedes then combined well but the latter’s cross was headed clear before it could reach Ronaldo.

As play switched to the other end, Fonte brought down Suarez for a dangerous 25-yard free kick and the forward’s low shot was well saved by Rui Patricio.

Ricardo Carvalho’s free kick eluded both Ronaldo and Fonte, with the half-hour approaching and Portugal yet to create a clear-cut chance.

Ronaldo then had an opening when Rodrigo Bentancur conceded a free kick for a foul on Guedes 25 yards out, only to blast his effort into the wall.

Martin Caceres and Nahitan Nandez combined to create a chance but the move ended when Cavani was unable to control an awkwardly-bouncing ball, and with five minutes remaining until the break Joao Mario made a promising run down the left only to slip.

In the final moments of the half, with Suarez down following a challenge from Raphael Guerreiro, Portugal won a corner that came to nothing before a half-chance was steered wide by Cavani at the far post.

Diego Godin cleared as Joao Mario sent in the first cross of the second half, and Ricardo put in another that was dealt with by Godin before it could find the waiting Ronaldo.

Guerreiro fired over from the edge of the box after a corner had fallen to him, and then Ronaldo laid the ball back to Adrien Silva, whose shot was deflected behind for a 55th-minute corner.

From it, Portugal were level as Pepe stormed in to head home from Guerreiro’s delivery and grab the goal that they had increasingly threatened since the break.

But parity did not last long, Cavani steering a brilliant curling finish into the corner after 62 minutes following Bentancur’s beautifully-weighted pass into his path.

Cristian Rodriguez came on for Bentancur as Uruguay made the first change, Portugal taking off Adrien Silva and bringing on Ricardo Quaresma soon afterwards.

With 20 minutes remaining, Bernardo Silva hooked over after Muslera had failed to hold a ball in the area under pressure, and then a Ronaldo strike from outside the box came back off a defender.

Guedes made way for Andre Silva and goal hero Cavani, limping after a knock, was replaced by Cristhian Stuani befoe Guerreiro sent another effort over as the game entered its final quarter of an hour.

Bernardo Silva drove in a low cross that deflected over as Portugal began to run out of time, and then Nandez was replaced by Carlos Sanchez for Uruguay.

Quaresma bent a cross towards Ronaldo, but just over him, and Bernardo Silva’s low ball in was cleared before Manuel Fernandes came on for Portugal in place of Joao Mario.

Ronaldo sliced another attempt wide and was booked for protesting after the referee declined to give a foul on Quaresma — but neither he nor Portugal could find a way through in four minutes of stoppage time as Uruguay held on to their lead to set up a quarterfinal against France on Friday.


De Futebol Left for Dead Argentina Advances to the Round of Sixteen!

Argentina came back to defeat Nigeria 2-1 to finish in second place in Group D. Croatia defeated Iceland to win Group D

Argentina will face Group C winner to France.

Croatia will take on Denmark.

The Daily Mail:’ The ball, delightful from Ever Banega, arrived over his shoulder, on the run. Lionel Messi watched it onto his left thigh, killed it there, let it drop to his left boot, took a perfect controlling touch and switched it, right.

Kenneth Omeruo, whose job it was to in some way harness the wind at that point, knew he was in trouble. In these moments, it is as if Messi has a way of rendering opponents powerless. He shot, across goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, and the ball moved obediently into the far corner of Nigeria’s net without further instruction. A gem of a goal from a gem of a player.

So that’s what you would have been missing. That’s what would have disappeared from this World Cup had Argentina lost on Tuesday night. Sunshine. Magic. Wonder. Ultimately, it was a fabulous volley from Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo that propelled Argentina into the final 16, but this was about him. This was about our desire for one player to stay. Save Messi. That is what the neutrals desired.

Argentina – well, they have to take their chances with the other mortals. This is a team with an average age above 30 and some significant frailties. With France up next it may only delay their departure by days, not weeks, but for now, they and Messi remain.

The world will watch again on Saturday, to see if one man can inspire a nation once more. St Petersburg’s stadium was overwhelmed by Argentina’s travelling support, but their joy was spread wide. It would take a heart of stone not to smile at this. Messi endures.

This might have been his last World Cup appearance, without Rojo’s goal. There would have been a reckoning in Argentina after this, with speculation Messi was going to be among several senior players in an aging team to retire from international football. Yet had this goal, this performance, been his farewell, it was one that encapsulated why this prize has remained so elusive throughout his career.

In the end, it is too much for one man to drag Argentina out of their malaise. This was overwhelming, even for him. A Victor Moses penalty had taken Nigeria to second in the group and had Cuneyt Cakir, the referee, been consistent with the call given against Portugal on Monday night, Argentina would have been out.

Rojo headed the ball on to his arm, much as Cedric had done 24 hours earlier against Iran, but after consulting the VAR, Cakir ruled no penalty. It was the right call – Rojo couldn’t get out of the way and there was no intention to handle – but not a harmonious one. The same could have been said of Cedric, too; yet that was given.

Argentina had started so well but as the competition ebbed away from them grew increasingly desperate and haphazard. They were on the brink, no doubt of that. And then: salvation. Cristian Pavon crossed from the right and Rojo simply met it with all he had. He could have taken a touch, could have finessed. He didn’t. He seized the moment, seized the day, seized a place in the second round for Argentina.

There were four minutes of normal time remaining. As cameras zoomed in on the crowd, the players, at the end, everybody seemed to be in tears. Angel Di Maria was sobbing. Argentina had been through an emotional wringer; and this was only the group stage.

Yet there were times in the first-half, and plenty of them, when it must have seemed unfathomable Argentina had got themselves into this state. Their supporters must have been wondering it, maybe the players, too. Argentina are ordinary defensively and Javier Mascherano’s legs have gone, but in attack, focused and firing, they can be sublime.

The introduction, in particular, of Sevilla’s midfielder Banega changed this team and Argentina should have been done by half-time. As well as Messi’s goal, the little genius hit a post and played an exquisite ball through for Gonzalo Higuain that should have amounted to more.

Di Maria was also clear until cynically felled by Leon Balogun, coming to Brighton from Mainz in time for next season. Only the presence of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho stopped that sequence ending with a red card.

Argentina’s World Cup, from the ill-conceived preparation match in politically-charged Jerusalem —that had to be cancelled at short notice — to the obvious tensions around coach Jorge Sampaoli behind the scenes, has been chaotic even by their standards.

It was said that the team for this last roll of the dice in Group D had been selected by the players, not the coach – although some players are more equal than others, one imagines – but they did a decent job.

Initially, this appeared a more balanced, secure Argentina side, starting in goal where Willy Caballero was jettisoned for Franco Armani, a 31-year-old from River Plate, on his international debut. His kicking was wayward but no more so than that of Cabellero, who gifted Croatia their first goal in a traumatic 3-0 defeat, and then failed to recover.

That has been Argentina’s problem at this tournament. Setbacks have had a debilitating effect. Messi missed a penalty against Iceland and it has taken him more than a week to shrug it off; Cabellero was poor for Croatia’s first goal, and then ineffectual for another two.

Big players have shirked responsibility at important times, gone quiet, gone to sleep. It took this, the very real possibility that their World Cup would be over at the group stage, for the real Argentina to show itself.

Argentina could have been three goals up by half-time had they taken their chances and caught the breaks. In the 28th minute, a perfectly-weighted through pass by Messi, found Higuain who outstripped his marker but was thwarted by teenager Uzoho in goal, the young man bravely off his line, saving at his feet and catching a painful blow, knee to head, in the process. Fortunately, he was able to carry on.

In the 32nd minute, a long ball from the back set Di Maria away until Balogun gave up chasing and took up tripping instead. Had Uzoho not been at home he might have gone, instead referee Cakir produced only a yellow card and from the resulting free-kick Messi flighted the ball over the wall and Uzoho got the merest touch to push it on to the far post.

Argentina were playing well, full of confidence, but defensive frailties and the determination of referees to at last address man-handling in the area conspired against them.

Mascherano – past his best and no longer a player Roy Hodgson considered more influential than Messi when distributing his Ballon D’Or votes – had several goes at Balogun as a corner came in, before dragging him to the floor.

Cakir pointed to the spot, the usual mimes of protests resulted, replays showed the right call had been made. Victor Moses stepped up, took two paces and hit a gentle one, only slightly to the right, deftly sending Armani the wrong way. At that point, Messi was on his way home. He has a lot to thank Rojo for; but so do we.

De Futebol Stick a fork in em Argentina is done! Almost!

Argentina got their asses kicked by Croatia. Croatia wins 3-0. Argentina is on the verge of not making it out of Group D.

Nigeria defeated Iceland 2-0.

Croatia is top dog with six points and has advanced to the round of sixteen.

Nigeria is second with three points.

Iceland is third with a point  a minus two and Argentina is fourth with a point a minus three

The Guardians Stuart James:” Jorge Sampaoli held his head in his hands. Lionel Messi stared at the floor. The rest of the Argentina players were speechless, standing with hands on hips and gazing aimlessly into space as wild Croatia celebrations broke out all around. Luka Modric had just filed a contender for the goal of the tournament showreel and twisted the knife in the process, leaving Argentina, twice world champions, on the brink of elimination. By the time Ivan Rakitic added a third, in the 91st minute, Argentina were broken.

This was about as humiliating as it gets for Argentina as the limitations of a team that only just managed to qualify for the World Cup were brutally exposed. Messi, their talisman and inspiration, was a passenger throughout, lost in a game that took place around him as Argentina, abject defensively, overrun in midfield and clueless going forward, crumbled in the face of a terrific Croatia side.

To put an extraordinary evening into some sort of context, this was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the group stage of a World Cup since losing 6-1 to Czechoslovakia in 1958. It is also the first time they have failed to win either of their opening two matches at a World Cup for 44 years. Sampaoli’s players, in other words, were creating history here – just not the sort of history that Messi had in mind when he came out of international retirement two years ago.

Messi could never have envisaged when he made that decision that Argentina would descend into such a sorry mess, encapsulated by the sight of Willy Caballero, who made his first competitive start for his country on Saturday, making the sort of blunder that will live with him for ever. Ante Rebic was the grateful recipient of a dreadful pass that sent Sampaoli, who must have covered more yards than some of his players as he paced up and down the touchline in a blind panic, into a meltdown.

What followed showed just how weak and brittle Argentina are these days as Croatia took the game away from Sampaoli’s side with alarming ease. Modric, shifting the ball one way and then the other, curled an exquisite 25-yard shot past Caballero, before Rakitic completed the rout by tapping in the third.

As Croatia’s jubilant supporters celebrated the sight of their country winning back-to-back World Cup matches for the first time since 1998 – they finished third that year – the Argentina fans sat in silence, wiping tears from their eyes as they tried to digest a woeful performance that prompted Sampaoli to “beg for forgiveness”.

With one point on the board and a final group game against Nigeria to come, Argentina could still qualify for the last 16. Yet it is hard – almost impossible – to imagine how Sampaoli and his players can possibly recover from such a chastening experience and one that highlighted all the concerns that had been voiced before a ball had been kicked at this World Cup, not least the unhealthy extent to which Argentina are dependent on Messi.

It felt strange, almost uncomfortable at times, to see Messi struggling to emerge from the shadows of this game, waiting for the pass that never came and powerless to bend the match into Argentina’s favour after Caballero’s error. He is still looking for his first goal at this tournament and may not get another chance after the Nigeria game, although Sampaoli summed it up rather succinctly when he was asked about the inevitable comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s contribution for Portugal. “The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Leo’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said.

Messi is so often the scapegoat when Argentina lose, yet Sampaoli will not escape the fallout this time. His decision to keep faith with Caballero – something that one reporter told him 40 million Argentinians could not understand – badly backfired and it was also a huge gamble to dispense with a four-man defence and set up with a back three instead. A huge gamble that spectacularly failed.

Croatia sensed vulnerability early on and targeted the flanks, where so much space opened up behind the two Argentinian wing-backs. Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Rebic all had excellent chances to open the scoring before Caballero pressed the self-destruct button. Only he knows why he chose not to punt upfield when Gabriel Mercado, running towards his own goal, passed the ball back to him. Instead, Caballero tried to return the ball to Mercado with a little chip, horribly miscued and gifted Rebic a chance that he was not going to refuse. The winger volleyed the ball straight back over Caballero’s head and Croatia were on their way to one of their most famous victories.

Sampaoli then rolled the dice. He replaced Sergio Agüero with Gonzalo Higuaín, brought on Cristian Pavón and introduced Paulo Dybala, as he became more and more desperate. Messi, with a rare sight of goal, had a close-range effort blocked by Rakitic, his Barcelona teammate, after Maximiliano Meza had been denied by Danijel Subasic, Croatia’s goalkeeper, but there was nothing menacing about Argentina’s play.

Croatia, in contrast, looked threatening every time they attacked and ran riot late on. Modric’s goal was a beauty and Rakitic, who hit the bar with a free-kick, slotted in the third to put Zlatko Dalic and his players in dreamland. “We were excellent,” Dalic said. “But now we must be calm, dignified and humble.”

De Futebol Argentina Stinks the joint out in a One All draw against Iceland!

Now you know why Argentina barley made it to the World Cup. Iceland played the match of their lives to earn a one all draw with Argentina in Group D.

Argentina stinks. Their defense and numerous errors cost them big time.

The Guardian Barney Rona: “With 64 minutes gone on a tight, bruising afternoon Argentina finally seemed to have found a break in a game in which their revered attack struggled to find its gears against an excellent Iceland team.

The score was already 1-1, as it would finish. Iceland were holding steady. With a long pass from the left Sergio Agüero was suddenly in space in the area, and sent tumbling by a collision with Hordur Magnusson. The penalty was given. Half of the stadium leapt up, phones raised as Lionel Messistepped up to take it, breath drawn ready to yowl and cheer as the ball hit the net.

Or perhaps not. Messi’s kick was terrible, too close to Hannes Halldorsson, who saved well, guessing the right way and palming the ball far enough from goal. In the stands there was a gawping sense of shock, heads cradled, jaws dropped.

What an astonishingly brilliant moment, though, for Halldorsson, who six years ago directed Iceland’s entry to the Eurovision song contest, but who has now saved a penalty from Messi in front of a few hundred million people, not to mention his future grand-kids, great grand-kids and anyone else who meets him for the next sixty years with an active YouTube feed.

There was controversy a quarter of an hour later when Cristian Pavón went down in the penalty area. There seemed to be contact from Birkir Már Sævarsson but the referee was having none of it and did not refer it to VAR.

And so Iceland held on in this Group D opener to take an entirely deserved point from their first ever World Cup game. This is a rise that has been pegged out in moments, from the defeats of Holland and England to the extended glory of qualification for Russia 2018. Here was another one, a new plateau for the smallest nation ever to get to the tournament. Albeit against an Argentina team that pressed hard, had most of the possession, and might easily have won the game, but which also presented its own weaknesses to the world.

For long period the general preconceptions about these two teams seemed to be confirmed. Iceland were willing, deft on the ball and completely unafraid. In between its best moments in attack, Argentina came across like a team that had forgotten its trousers on the way out, dressed in full ceremonial regalia on top, but with its long-johns flapping at the back.

This was Willy Caballero’s first competitive international at the age of 36. It might well be his last if Franco Armani has been looking smart in training. There was a fumble for Iceland’s goal, one horrible attempt at jazzed-up possession play from the back, and a first-half shot that was palmed away with all the agility of a dead tree falling over in a high wind.

Before kick-off on a dazzlingly bright Moscow day the Spartak Arena was gripped with a wonderful rolling surge of noise. Argentina’s travelling fans are present in the usual city-scale numbers. Here they created the usual warm, celebratory noise, a mess of chants and cheers and soaring balladry that manages to be both ferociously inspiring and also somehow devoid of menace.

Nobody quite knew how Argentina’s players would hit their stride here. Instead of playing friendlies Argentina have trained with unusual urgency, Sampaoli grooving his players like a club side. The issue with this team is simply the right jiggle of the switches, finding a way of channelling without clogs or snags the benefits of pure, unfettered Messi power.

The sight of Messi’s huge, impassive ginger-bearded face on the big screen as the teams walked out drew the first ear-splitting whistle from the main Albiceleste end. Heimir Hallgrimsson had been phlegmatic as ever on facing Argentina’s own universe-boss level playmaker. “I don’t have a magic formula,” Hallgrimsson shrugged on the eve of this game.

In the event Iceland packed the midfield, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, just returned from injury, as a No 10 in possession, a No 8 without the ball. And throughout they played Messi supremely well.

Early on Iceland were brusque and bruising. Messi was hauled over the first time he picked up the ball in a pocket of space. At the other end a huge punted long pass from back to front put Alfred Finnbogason for a shot over the bar and from the ensuing sweep-keeper horror show of a goal-kick Birki Bjarnason scuffed past the post on the run when he looked certain to score.

All the while Messi thrummed around in the low gears, with Aaron Gunnarsson always quick to intrude on his personal space. With 16 minutes gone there was a sudden Messi swerve to the left and a powerful shot that Hannes Halldorsson pumped away with both fists. And four minutes later came the reminder that Messi isn’t the only world class footballer in this team.

Nobody works a pocket of space quite like Agüero, a player with legs so rubbery he can spring through 180 degree circle in the time it takes you to think about raising your left foot. Here he took the ball in the area and pirouetted away from Ragnar Sigurdsson. No back-lift was required. With swish of air the ball was in the top corner.

Even before they levelled the scores Iceland had demonstrated their own cutting edge, and also the brittleness of this Argentina defence. Alfred Finnbogason’s equaliser was the product of excellent Icelandic pressing, drawing slackness down the right and that fumble from Caballero as the cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson came in. Iceland’s centre-forward moved quicker than the swamp-bound defenders around him to poke the ball home.

Iceland sat back. Argentina pressed without any real sense of edge, finding little space. There was shout for a penalty as the ball bounced up from close range and hit the hand of the sliding Ragnar Sigurdsson. Sampaoli capered and fumed and waggled his arms on the touchline. But Sigurdsson was guilty of little more than possessing arms in the usual place arms tend to be.

For long periods after the break Argentina were ponderous in central midfield against opponents who dropped deep. Up ahead Messi was pushed right to the fringes, handled with remarkable certainty and disincline by this Icelandic midfield and defence. Ángel Di María provided little effective width. On the right Eduardo Salvio made good ground at times. But there was a lack of snap, of easy rhythms in possession. Iceland were able simply to hold their ground.

With 53 minutes gone Sampaoli shifted the weather in his team, bringing on the more dextrous Ever Banega for Lucas Biglia. Banega is a lovely midfielder. But Iceland gave him more of the same, crowding in well-drilled pairs, shutting off his angles. There were chances, shots that whistled just wide, and that missed Messi penalty. But Iceland were cool throughout, their point welcomed with a huge Nordic cheer.

No doubt some will now draw an unavoidable and indeed deeply unflattering parallel with Cristiano Ronaldo’s wonderful hat-trick last night, an extreme contrast with Messi’s impotence here. That struggle for tournament fluency continues. But this afternoon belonged above all to the men from the volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic, whose extraordinary world tour isn’t showing any sign of losing its momentum just yet.

De Futebol Argentina Squad for The World Cup!

Let’s take a look at Argentina and their squad for 2018 World Cup.

The Guardians Javier Saul wrote:” This article is part of the Guardian’s 2018 World Cup Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who have qualified for Russia. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

There are no solid arguments to suggest Argentina can win this World Cup. They do not have the training levels of Spain, the structure of Germany or the blend of top-class individuals and team ethos harnessed by their bitter rivals Brazil. But they do have Lionel Messi, and that in itself is a reason to believe nothing is impossible.

“If Leo is OK, the team will be more under his control than mine,” confessed the coach, Jorge Sampaoli. The most realistic objective would be progress to the quarter-finals; elimination any earlier would be frustrating and anything beyond the last eight should be seen as a very positive performance. But no one in Argentina forgets the three lost finals in a row – the 2014 World Cup and the Copa Americas in 2015 and 2016 – and a team that suffer a worrying mental brittleness will be under plenty of pressure.

One of Argentina’s weaknesses lies in goal, a position up for grabs after Sergio Romero was ruled out with a knee injury. Willy Caballero rarely featured at Chelsea last season and his deputies lack experience on this stage. In defence there is only one player of international quality, Nicolás Otamendi, and the performance of the entire backline has left a lot to be desired under Sampaoli. The coach has changed personnel and formations frequently, eventually settling on a conventional four-man defence. Gabriel Mercado, on the right, does not feel comfortable in that position and may be another achilles heel.

There are also plenty of questions to answer in midfield, and Lucas Biglia’s injury – a double fracture of his lumbar vertebrae that casts doubt on his fitness going into the tournament – adds to the uncertainty. A lack of leadership and initiative to take hold of the ball and control a game in the middle of the park has posed significant questions; the players’ answers have been hesitant.

Two of those midfielders symbolise the mood surrounding Argentina and this World Cup. On the one hand Javier Mascherano, who turns 34 on 8 June and plays in a weak Chinese league, is clearly in decline and seems to mirror the plight of the national team. On the other Giovani Lo Celso, aged 22, who will have to assert more influence if Bielsa’s side are to do well. He is a moderate player, able to create attacks, who proved his worth last season at PSG. He is more engaged with the whole unit than some of his peers; he can initiate attacks and pass between the lines to the forwards.

And therein lies another concern. Messi’s explosive partners – players such as Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín – must not let their captain toil alone if they dream of winning the cup. Argentina may lose with Messi, but the sense is that they will never win without him.

Which player is going to surprise everyone at the World Cup?

Giovani Lo Celso. European football has made Lo Celso a versatile, complete and decisive player. He left Rosario Central as a creative midfielder but at Paris Saint-Germain he has developed his range of skills and therefore his influence on his teams has grown. He is now much more able to defend against counterattacks and shadow the opponents’ best players. Not only that, his first touch – and pass – is excellent and he sometimes pops up in the opposition penalty area. From midfield he may be the perfect partner Messi has wanted in the national team for so long.

Which player is likely to disappoint?

Javier Mascherano. It was apparent that he could not continue playing for Barcelona and he went to China, really, so that he could stay in the game and have a chance to play in another World Cup. But playing in the Chinese Super League has not helped him much and, although still an option in defence or midfield, his best days are clearly behind him. When he plays, though, he can have a really positive influence on his team-mates.

What is the realistic aim for Argentina at the World Cup and why?

Despite having Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world, a realistic aim for Argentina is to sneak into the quarter-finals. Many years of structural mismanagement have left scars. The coach, Jorge Sampaoli, has been in charge for a year and the team still lack a recognisable identity.

Javier Saúl writes for La Nacion.”

De Futebol Brasil wins and Chile is out of the 2018 World Cup

Brasil blows out Chile 3-0. The loss killed Chile’s shot a 2018 World Cup spot. The loss drops the Chileans into sixth place with 26 points. Peru has 26 points tambem. Peru is a plus one while Chile is a minus one.

Chile is out and Peru is on to the playoff round of the 2018 World Cup.

The Daily Mail:” Alexis Sanchez and Chile will have to watch the World Cup from home after being dumped out of qualifying on a night of high drama in South America.

With all eyes on Lionel Messi and Argentina, who faced the real prospect of missing out on the tournament but ultimately made it through after coming from behind to beat Ecuador, Paulinho and Gabriel Jesus struck for a Brazil side long assured of their place to ensure Chile were the major casualties as they missed out on a play-off on goal difference as they were pipped by Peru.

Paulinho profited from an error by Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to poke home the first before Manchester City man Jesus found an open net just two minutes later following a stunning piece of skill from Neymar.

Chile could find no answer as they desperately searched for a route to Russia, with Bravo sent up in search of a goal, but as play broke down Brazil cleared to Jesus who beat the Chilean goalkeeper in a foot race to find an empty net.

The back-to-back Copa America winners sunk to their knees and lay flat out on the turf at the final whistle, with the team ranked ninth in the world facing up to the prospect of having to watch next summer’s football festival from home.

The hosts went into the game as the only South American side to have punched their ticket and had the better of the opening exchanges in Sao Paulo and spent the majority of the half on the front foot, but only really tested Claudio Bravo in the Chile goal when Neymar scrambled through and forced the Manchester City goalkeeper to get down well to save at his near post.

Lionel Messi’s first-half rescue act for Argentina, which saw the Barcelona man strike twice to turn things around and give them the lead in Ecuador after conceding early, left Chile in a precarious position as they slipped to fourth, knowing falling behind would see them down to fifth and facing the prospect of a play-off against New Zealand.

But they stood firm heading into half-time and managed some late pressure on the Brazil back-line without ever forcing Ederson into action in the Brazil goal.

Chile, though were in serious trouble as the hour mark approached, with Brazil scoring twice to cast major doubts over their place in Russia. First, Paulinho profited after Claudio Bravo spilled a Dani Alves free-kick into his path, before Gabriel Jesus found an open goal when slotted in by Neymar just minutes later.

As it stood Chile were missing out completely, but the picture changed again when Colombia took the lead against Peru, which saw Sanchez and Co jump back into the play-off place.

That place was again lost with 10 minutes to play as Peru grabbed an equaliser against Colombia and, with Chile desperately looking for a leveler, Jesus slotted the second as he beat Bravo in a foot race after the visiting goalkeeper had been sent forward for a corner.

De Futebol Messi’s hat trick leads Argentina to a berth in the 2018 World Cup

Lionel Messi led the way with a hat trick to lead Argentina’s destruction of Ecuador 3-1. Couple this win with Brasil’s shut out 3-0 win over Chile and Peru and Colombia tied one all gave Argentinos third place and a spot in the 2018 World Cup.

Peru earns a playoff spot with their one all tie against Colombia.

Brasil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia have their tickets punched for the World Cup.

The Guardian wrote on the Argentina win:” Argentina conceded after just 37 seconds in their must-win game against Ecuador, but Lionel Messi came to the rescue as his side booked their place at next summer’s World Cup.

The No10 hit a brace in the first half in Quito and capped off a stellar performance as he completed his hat-trick with a stunning chip over keeper Maximo Banguera just after the hour mark.

Romario Ibarra stunned the away fans – and perhaps all of South America – as he nodded on a ball lofted high into the danger area and sloppy defence from Argentina allowed the Ecuadorian space to slot it in past Sergio Romero in the opening minute.

But Messi, who is now the all-time leading goalscorer in South American qualifying, played a deft one-two with Angel di Maria to level things up after 12 minutes and then put his side in front eight minutes later with a strike from just inside the box.

Ecuador continued to press in search of an equaliser as Argentina failed to kill the game off, allowing the home side to attack well into the second half.

It was a moment of brilliance which proved to be the difference. The Argentina talisman took the ball in space about 40 yards out from goal, weaved his way to the edge of the box and was able to lob Banguera – six yards off his line – as he lost his balance and fell to the floor.

Argentina were looking in danger of not making the 2018 World Cup in Russia going into the final group games, following a torrid campaign in which they had only scored 16 goals in 17 games.

Low points were numerous, and a 2-0 loss to Bolivia in March saw the end of Edgardo Bauza’s short stint as boss as Jorge Sampaoli took the reins.

Since then, three draws put Argentina on the brink of not making the World Cup for the first time since 1970. They then travelled to Quito – a place where they have not won since 2001 – but bagged all three points to guarantee a trip to Russia.

De Futebol Chile is a step closer to making the 2018 World Cup

Chile scored a late goal to beat Ecuador 2-1. Alexis Sanchez nailed the match winner in the 86th minute.

The Daily Mail:” Chile survived a late scare to beat Ecuador 2-1 on Thursday and keep alive their hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia as they moved into third-place in the 10-team South American qualifying group.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Russia with the fifth-placed side facing Oceania champions New Zealand in a two-legged play-off.

With just one game remaining, Brazil are the only South American side to have guaranteed their spot, with Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Peru all dependent on results in Tuesday’s final round of matches.

Copa America champions Chile have perhaps the toughest task in their final match, against Brazil in Sao Paulo.

The five-times world champions have never lost a World Cup qualifier at home.

Chile have failed to sparkle this year, losing three of their last four qualifiers before Thursday.

However, Tigres striker Eduardo Vargas helped them back to their winning ways with a goal after 22 minutes.

Alexis Sanchez stole the ball on the edge of the box and fed midfielder Jorge Valdivia and his pass left Vargas in space 12 yards out to crash the ball past keeper Maximo Banguera.

Romario Ibarra equalised for Ecuador with eight minutes remaining but Sanchez was on hand three minutes later when Banguera could only parry a shot on the edge of the six-yard box.

Sanchez then had the simplest of tasks slipping the ball home for the winner.

De Futebol-Argentina in danger of not making the 2018 World Cup

Argentina and Peru tied nil-nil.

The Daily Mail:” Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970, stumbling to a 0-0 draw against Peru before a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires.

Only one round of qualifying remains in South America.

Argentina, the runner-up to Germany in the World Cup three years ago in Brazil, plays on Tuesday against Ecuador in the thin air of Quito in the Andes.

The Argentines are in sixth place, with the top four teams advancing automatically. The fifth-place team can advance by winning a playoff against New Zealand.

Brazil has already qualified, and drew 0-0 against Bolivia on Thursday. Brazil has 38 points, followed by: Uruguay (28), Chile (26), Colombia (26), Peru (25), Argentina (25) and Paraguay (24).

Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia are eliminated.

It’s too close to call. But Uruguay is expected to get through the final round on Tuesday. After that, four teams are chasing the two automatic spots.

That will leave two teams trying to reach the playoff, which looks like Argentina’s only route. It must win at 9,350 feet in Quito and get some help.

Argentine will require all the luck they can get after a disappointing night in front of their home supporters.

Their players, led by Messi, all trudged off the pitch at full-time. Every single of them appeared disappointed with the outcome and know their destiny is now out of their hands heading into next week and the crucial match against Ecuador.

It is a game they really must win if they are to stand any realistic chance of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup.