Argentina vs Peru - Argentina's World Cup hopes hang in balance



Posted Wednesday, October 04, 2017 by PA

Dario Benedetto could be handed his full debut on Friday when Argentina bid to rescue their World Cup qualifying campaign against Peru.

The 27-year-old striker has been in top form for Boca Juniors, whose home stadium, La Bombonera, will provide a cauldron of noise in Buenos Aires after specifically being chosen as the venue.

Jorge Sampaoli's side, who hope to snatch a top-four qualifying spot in their last two matches, currently lie fifth, behind Peru on the number of games won.

La Albiceleste will be without Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, out for up to six weeks after breaking a rib last week in a car accident, while Sampaoli has overlooked Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain again.

Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi was chosen to lead the line in Argentina's last two qualifying matches, but Benedetto would be a popular choice at a hyped-up and sold-out Bombonera.

Argentina drew their last two qualifiers under Sampaoli, against Uruguay and Venezuela, while a fifth qualifying defeat could be disastrous.

The two-time world champions opened their campaign with a 2-0 home defeat to Ecuador and have also lost to Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil. They must beat Peru and then Ecuador in their final match to guarantee a top-four finish.

Their rocky road to Russia 2018 has already accounted for former head coaches Gerardo Martino, who resigned, and Edgardo Bauza. Sampaoli, the former Chile and Sevilla boss, is chasing his first win in his third game in charge.

Peru, bidding to reach the finals for the first time in 36 years, would emerge as favourites to secure a top-four finish ahead of Argentina if they avoid defeat in Buenos Aires. The fifth-placed nation will play-off against Oceania qualifiers New Zealand.

Ricardo Gareca's side will play Colombia at home in their last qualifying match, while Argentina must travel to high altitude in Quito to take on Ecuador.

Despite the high stakes, coach Gareca says he has no plans to man-mark Lionel Messi.

"We don't generally man-mark players. We are analysing it but it's unlikely," he told a press conference.

"He is a player that cannot be disputed. For us it's a privilege to be on a stage like we are going to be, in a situation that we are in and facing an Argentina side that will have the best players in the world.

"We consider Argentina among the best national teams in the world. They have players of superlative level. But we will go out determined to take a win because that is our mentality."

Gareca could give a full debut to winger Sergio Pena as a replacement for Christian Cueva, one of four players sidelined through suspension.

Boavista forward Ivan Bulos has been ruled out for five months with a knee ligament injury, so the Vancouver Whitecaps' Yordy Reyna has been drafted into the squad.

Locomotiv Moscow striker Jefferson Farfan has recovered from a muscle strain.



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