Brazil won't cry for Argentina
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP):
With Argentina and Lionel Messi on the brink of missing the World Cup, they are not receiving any sympathy from Brazil.
Five-time champions Brazil qualified six months ago for the finals in Russia, and have been fascinated watching their arch-rival struggle to join them.
"Everybody knows the skills of Messi and the importance of Argentina," striker Gabriel Jesus said. "If they are where they are, it's because of what they have done. Of course, you talk about Messi, one of the best players football has ever had. But we have to think only about ourselves."
South America wraps up regional qualifying tomorrow. Only Brazil are in. Three other teams will gain automatic berths, and one more qualifies for a play-off next month against New Zealand.
Most eyes are on Argentina's match in Ecuador, played at 2,850 metres (9,350 feet) in the thin air of Quito.
In other matches, which all start at the same time, its Brazil-Chile, Peru-Colombia, Paraguay-Venezuela, and Uruguay-Bolivia.
Argentina need a victory to get at least a play-off spot. Any other result puts it in jeopardy of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970.
Brazil have 38 points. Uruguay are next with 28 and are a cinch to qualify. That leaves five teams separated by two points: Chile (26), Colombia (26), Peru (25), Argentina (25), and Paraguay (24).
A World Cup without Argentina and Messi would hurt the TV networks, Russian ticket sales, and FIFA, which needs an exciting tournament to distract from any problems off the pitch.
"It's natural that a World Cup without Brazil, Argentina, or Germany would lose a little of its charm," Brazil defender Miranda said. "But our goal is to qualify to the World Cup and our opponents should deal with their own situations."