The top four teams qualify automatically for next year's tournament in Russia and the fifth-placed side play New Zealand in a two-legged playoff for an additional spot. Former Chile and Seville coach Sampaoli took over four months ago with the sole task of getting what is arguably the world's greatest collection of attacking talent to Russia. The problem, however, has been how to get the best out of it. Argentina have so many options in midfield and up front that players such as Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Pastore are not automatic choices.
Who has qualified for the World Cup, who is close and could Argentina actually miss out? https://t.co/SCc6bBnTVY— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) October 4, 2017
Higuain, who played in nine of Argentina's first 13 qualifiers, was dropped from the last two squads and Aguero, who will miss the next two games through injury, has started five of the last six on the bench. The players chosen have struggled to reproduce their club form at international level, with Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala among those who have been less than influential when wearing the blue and white stripes. Argentina lost at home to Ecuador and Paraguay and failed to beat Venezuela, a team with just one win from 16 games, both home and away. They have scored only 16 goals, with only Bolivia managing fewer.
? AGUERO BLOW!? Argentina team doctor claims Sergio Aguero could be out for 'a minimum of six weeks' with injury. https://t.co/BFfsga1Wnl— Sky Sports PL ? (@SkySportsPL) October 4, 2017
Another problem has come off the field where turmoil within the Argentine Football Association has meant three coaches have led the team since the qualifying campaign began two years ago. The constant chopping and changing has prevented the side from finding a settled style of play. Sampaoli, who took over in June, has the credentials, having led Chile to the Copa America title in 2015. But his selections have also been inconsistent and Argentina have used 48 different players since the 2016 Copa America.
Can you imagine the 2018 World Cup without Lionel Messi and Argentina? Well, it could happen... pic.twitter.com/VBxKhkUMRn— Goal UK (@GoalUK) October 4, 2017