BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Jun 15 – Lionel Messi vowed to “keep fighting” as Argentina attempt to overcome their World Cup qualifying struggles and seal their place in next year’s tournament in Russia.
The two-time world champions are fifth in South American qualifying, with only the top four teams guaranteed a place in the 2018 World Cup.
“365 days left to Russia, let’s keep fighting for the dream!” Messi wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday, as Argentina bid to avoid missing the finals for the first time since 1970.
Arch-rivals Brazil became the first side to qualify for Russia in March, but Argentina trail fourth-placed Chile by a point with four matches left to play.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side would face a two-legged play-off against the winners of the Oceania region — New Zealand or Solomon Islands — should they finish fifth.
Argentina, without the suspended Messi, crashed to a 2-0 defeat in Bolivia in their most recent qualifier, but the Barcelona star’s four-match ban for swearing at an assistant referee has since been overturned by FIFA.
He can now return when qualifying resumes in August with a clash against Uruguay, followed by matches against Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador.
Argentina have won only one of eight World Cup 2018 qualifiers played without Messi, compared to five out of six won with him on the pitch.