Argentina 0-0 Peru: match report
Argentina did not have the keys to unlock a resolute Peru side at La Bombonera on Thursday night as their World Cup hopes hang in the balance and the possibility of a Lionel Messi-less Russia 2018 becomes a more distinct possibility.
Jorge Sampaoli opted for Dario Benedetto and Papu Gomez up front instead of Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi and while it worked in the sense that the chances were being created for them, neither failed to convert with Messi creating a half dozen chances that you would expect to be tucked home.
Argentina had all the ball in the opening exchanges and Messi came close with a curling effort along with Benedetto, who headed over from a Messi cross. Peru never stopped fighting to get up the field and had the very best chance of the half when Jefferson Farfan fired wide at the front post to make sure the score remained 0-0.
The second half started as the first half did, with Argentina asserting their dominance and Peru struggling to get up to speed. Within two minutes of the whistle, Messi could have scored from a saved Benedetto shot and then Lucas Biglia curled over second later.
Marcos Acuna was next up and he missed from point blank range when Pedro Gallese came out and made himself big. Not long after, Messi had one on a plate for Rigoni but he too missed from even closer than Acuna.
Fernando Gago came on for his first international appearence in over two years and had to be replaced five minutes later when his knee buckled under him and he explained to the bench that it was certainly not good.
Argentina continued to push but Messi was tired and as a result Argentina's heart stopped beating. They continually stalled or took the wrong option up front unless it was Messi who was assisting and he couldn't get his own shots away.
Sampaoli and co. have to wait until Tuesday now to see if they can manage a win and hope that results elsewhere go their way. It might not be easy but if Argentina can make it out of this tight spot, the adversity might bode well heading into a World Cup next summer together.
Argentina vs Peru live stream online: as it happened
Argentina vs Peru live: World Cup qualifying preview
Argentina host Peru in Buenos Aires with both teams able to seal qualification for the 2018 World Cup if results run in their favour. Argentina and Peru both have 24 points, but the visitors sit above their rivals by virtue of having scored more goals.
La Bombonera, the raucous home of Boca Juniors, will host the match. It was originally due to take place in the north of the Argentine capital, in River Plate's El Monumental home, but was switched in an attempt to create a more intimidating atmosphere for the Peruvian visitors.
Peru have overcome that disadvantage in the past. In 1969, Los Incas drew 2-2 La Bombonera to progress to the 1970 World Cup at Argentina's expense.
La Albiceleste have failed to find their groove under the management of Jorge Sampaoli. In the last international break at the beginning of September, Argentina hobbled to draws against Uruguay and Venezuela, leaving them in 5th place in the keenly contested South American qualifying group.
Sampaoli is without Sergio Agüero as the Manchester City striker continues his recovery from a broken rib sustained in a car crash in the Netherlands. Yet an abundance of attacking talent remains. Lionel Messi is top of that list, and if he scores against Peru, he will join Hernán Crespo with 19 goals in World Cup qualifiers for Argentina.
In Agüero's absence, Darío Benedetto could lead the line for Argentina. The Boca striker is in a sensational run of form for his club, having returned to his home country after a spell in Mexico.
Peru are looking to grace the World Cup with their red-diagonal-striped presence for the first time since 1982, when they were knocked out in the group stage after entertaining the world with their expressive brand of football.
Coach Ricardo Gareca will feel at home in La Bombonera. The 59-year-old started his career in La Boca and went on to make 130 appearances for the club. Judging by Gareca's team selection in Peru's most recent training sessions, Granada midfielder Sergio Peña will occupy a space in the midfield.
The Peruvian talisman remains Paolo Guerrero. The 33-year-old is an example of nominative determinism; his surname means 'warrior' in Spanish, which aptly describes his combative style of play. Watford midfielder Andre Carrillo will be unavailable through suspension.
Peru have played eight World Cup qualifiers in Argentina, and have not won any of them. But history shows that this fixture can throw up a surprise.
Argentina vs Peru live stream online: odds and betting
Peru and Argentina are priced at 26/1 to draw 2-2, as they did back in 1969.