Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli remains confident of World Cup qualification



Posted Monday, October 09, 2017 by PA

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli insists his team must keep the faith with their World Cup hopes in the balance.

The two-time world champions and 2014 runners-up face missing out on the tournament for the first time since 1970 ahead of their final qualifying game in Ecuador.

Argentina currently sit sixth in the 10-team South American section, with only the top four countries qualifying for Russia automatically and the fifth-placed side facing a play-off against New Zealand.

However, such is the compact nature of the standings that six nations go into the final round of fixtures still boasting a chance of joining already-qualified Brazil in securing a top-four berth.

Among them are Argentina, who will guarantee their place in next year's finals if they beat already-eliminated Ecuador and other results go their way.

A draw in Quito might even be enough for Lionel Messi and company to claim at least a play-off berth - providing fifth-placed Peru lose at home to fourth-placed Colombia - but Sampaoli is determined for his side to keep their destiny in their own hands.

The former Sevilla boss, who will be without injured midfielder Fernando Gago, said after seeing his side held to a goalless draw at home by Peru: "It's an uncomfortable situation, but qualification still depends on us.

"I'm very confident that if we play with the conviction that we did (against Peru) then we are going to be in the World Cup."

He added: "This is football, sometimes it gives and sometimes it takes away. Sometimes you deserve something but do not win.

"The team is angry but thinking that if they win in Ecuador, they will qualify. There is a conviction that strikes me very much. We will continue searching, as we did with Venezuela and Peru."

While Argentina still have high hopes of reaching the World Cup, opponents Ecuador have nothing to play for but pride at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa.

They have lost their last five qualifiers and sacked their coach Gustavo Quinteros last month with caretaker boss Jorge Celico now in charge.

Celico is from Buenos Aires but said possibly toppling his home nation is part of the job.

"Destiny puts things in your path that you don't imagine," he told Argentinian broadcaster TyC Sports.

"I have a big commitment to the people of Ecuador, because I have done my (coaching career) here. I have to be thankful for that and do my best, as is right."

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