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South American Qualifiers: Lot to play for in final round

Coach Lionel Scaloni says fans should enjoy Lionel Messi while they can and stop worrying about whether the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will retire from international soccer after Qatar
Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
File Photo

Agencies   |   Sao Paulo   |   Published 29.03.22, 01:37 AM

Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay have already secured the region’s four direct spots at the World Cup in Qatar later this year, but there’s still a lot at stake in the final round of South American qualifying on Tuesday.

The biggest prize is the intercontinental playoff spot against the fifth place team from Asia, with Peru (21 points), Colombia (20) and Chile (19) chasing fifth place in South America. That playoff in June is likely to be against Australia, United Arab Emirates or Iraq.

Peru can secure their place with a home victory against Paraguay. Colombia need to beat Venezuela and hope Peru do not win. Chile will have to beat Uruguay in Santiago and rely on other results going their way.

Leaders Brazil are targeting a historic mark at Bolivia on the same day.

Coach Tite’s team can reach 45 competition points with a victory at altitude in La Paz, a tally that would break Argentina’s record of 43 in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. In another match, third-placed Ecuador host second-placed Argentina.

Coach Lionel Scaloni said Argentine football fans should enjoy Lionel Messi while they can and stop worrying about whether the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will retire from international soccer after Qatar.

“We have to enjoy him now, not think about the future and what is going to happen,” Scaloni told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier.

“Sometimes, because that’s life, one gets old and I think that’s normal. But why not think about the spectacular here and now? Why not enjoy him now? It’s useless thinking about what is going to happen after the World Cup.”

Scaloni’s words came in response to Messi’s cryptic comment after last week’s game against Venezuela that he would “rethink a lot of things” when the tournament in Qatar was over.

The comments were interpreted in some quarters as a sign he might retire from international duty.



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