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Without Messi, Argentina's Opportunity Passed to the 2018 World Cup Threatened

Losing Lionel Messi in four matches is a major disaster for the Argentine national team. Albiceleste threatened not to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Messi has just been sentenced to a four-match ban by FIFA. The 29-year-old footballer was punished for harassing a line judge on the game against Chile last week.

Argentina national team has declared its intention to appeal the sentence. If the penalty will not change, Messi should miss the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru. The new Messi can return to play in the last qualifying match against Ecuador in October.

Argentina currently occupy the third rank in the standings with 22 points from 13 matches. The Tango team is eight points clear of Brazil leading the table and a point behind Uruguay.

Argentina's position is still far from safe because the teams below them are also not far behind. Colombia are in fourth position just behind one point, while Ecuador and Chile are two points apart. Only the top four teams will qualify automatically for the 2018 World Cup finals, while the fifth-ranked team will go through the play-offs.

If you consider the material of Argentina national team player, coach Edgardo Bauza actually still have many other top attackers. Bauza can count on Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, and Paulo Dybala. He can also give an opportunity to Mauro Icardi who has been marginalized.

However, Argentina have a bad record when Messi is not in the field. In seven World Cup 2018 qualifying matches without Messi's presence, Argentina only won once. While in six other games they are four draws and two defeats.

Compare with when Messi appeared in six other qualifying matches. Argentina won five times and only lost once from Brazil. In six games, Messi scored four goals.