Lionel Messi was an all too notable absentee as Argentina were humiliated 6-1 by Spain in Madrid on Tuesday, the joint-heaviest defeat in their history.
A Messi-less Argentina
Barcelona superstar Messi missed both of Argentina's friendlies during the international break, also sitting out the 2-0 win against Italy due to an adductor injury, and his presence was sorely missed as Julen Lopetegui's men ran roughshod.
Since losing the Copa America Centenario final to Chile in June 2016, a defeat that saw Messi briefly quit the national team, it has been an indifferent period in Argentine football.
Messi has often been criticised for failing to match his phenomenal Barca standards with the national team, but there is no denying his importance to the side – the hat-trick against Ecuador that secured World Cup qualification made his value abundantly clear.
However, as has been the case this week, Argentina will not always have the luxury of being able to call on their star man.
Here are a selection of the team's worst performances without Messi since he reversed his international retirement.
6 - Spain have won 6-1 vs Argentina scoring their six shots on target (100%), the biggest win for Spain against a World Champion ever. Punch pic.twitter.com/sr5Ap6yrDE— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 27, 2018
DISAPPOINTING DRAWS WITH VENEZUELA AND PERU
Prior to their Copa final defeat, Argentina had won nine games on the spin and a 1-0 success over Uruguay in September 2016, a match in which Messi scored the winner, hinted that they had quickly moved on from their heartbreak.
But a troublesome groin injury ruled the talismanic forward out of the fixture at Venezuela five days later as Argentina had to fightback for a 2-2 draw.
Still without Messi a month later, Argentina produced the same result in Peru to leave their World Cup hopes on the ropes.
WASTEFUL AGAINST PARAGUAY
Argentina continued to toil in Messi's injury absence, Derlis Gonzalez scoring the only goal as Paraguay stunned the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in Cordoba in October 2016.
It was a wasteful evening for Argentina, with Sergio Aguero missing a penalty, Angel Di Maria hitting the post and several other chances going begging.
Messi did return to the squad for the next set of qualifiers, but Argentina were outplayed in a 3-0 defeat to runaway leaders Brazil on his comeback.
BAUZA BOWS OUT TO BOLIVIA
A four-match suspension as a result of an altercation with a match official in a 1-0 win against Chile left Argentina without Messi at a crucial juncture in World Cup qualifying.
And they wilted in a dismal 2-0 loss at altitude in Bolivia with Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins earning a deserved victory that severely dented Argentina's qualification hopes and signalled the end of Edgardo Bauza's tenure as head coach.
Messi's ban was rescinded after the defeat.
SPAIN HUMILIATION CAUSE FOR CONCERN
And a Messi-less Argentina hit a new low this week as a Spain side inspired by a hat-trick from Isco taught their visitors a harsh lesson at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Messi watched on from the stands and Jorge Sampaoli will hope to have him back as soon as possible as he finalises his World Cup preparations.