The composition of the 2018 World Cup is becoming clearer as the qualification stages come to a conclusion around the continents.
South America, in particular, has been one of the more competitive qualifying groups, with six teams still in contention for the remaining four spots heading into the final round of fixtures.
Since the cycle began two years ago, there has been plenty of drama around the continent, with all teams seemingly capable of taking points off each other and only one team - Brazil - managing to pull clear of the pack. Surprisingly, too, there are serious concerns over Argentina's chances of making the biggest football tournament in the world.
With the final Conmebol games set to take place on October 10, Goal brings you all you need to know.
WHO HAS QUALIFIED FROM SOUTH AMERICA?
Brazil were the first team from South America to secure their place at the World Cup in Russia next year and Tite's men are guaranteed to finish top of the qualification table.
A total of six teams are still in contention heading into the final game, but only three more will qualify automatically, while the fifth best side advance to the inter-confederation play-off, which will be played against Oceania representatives New Zealand in November.
|Country||CONMEBOL qualification place|
|Country||Best possible CONMEBOL finish|
|Country||CONMEBOL stage reached|
WORLD CUP 2018 QUALIFICATION CONMEBOL TABLE
Group-winners Brazil have lost just one game - their first match against Chile - and are 10 points clear with one game left to play. Luis Suarez's Uruguay are the closest team to Neymar and co. and they are primed to finish second should they win their last game.
Chile and Colombia are tied on 26 points each, but Alexis Sanchez and co. are ahead in third place by virtue of their greater tally of goals. Peru follow in fifth and, while they are level on points with Argentina, their superior goal-haul sees them occupy the play-off spot.
You can see the CONMEBOL qualification table for the 2018 World Cup in Russia below.
*teams in bold have qualified
*teams in italics have been eliminated
Final round of fixtures:
|Oct 10||Brazil vs Chile||Sao Paulo|
|Oct 10||Ecuador vs Argentina||Quito|
|Oct 10||Paraguay vs Venezuela||Asuncion|
|Oct 10||Peru vs Colombia||Lima|
|Oct 10||Uruguay vs Bolivia||Montevideo|
CAN ARGENTINA & MESSI STILL QUALIFY?
The short answer is yes, but it will be dependent on results elsewhere, so it is ultimately out of their hands and the permutations are enough to make Argentina fans dizzy as they look to avoid missing out on a World Cup for the first time since 1970.
As you can see in the table above, Argentina's final game of qualification is away to Ecuador, who are already eliminated. Meanwhile, Colombia and Peru, who are directly above Argentina in fourth and fifth respectively, face off in Lima.
The best-case scenario for Messi and co. is that they win their game against Ecuador and Colombia draw with Peru. That pair of results would see Argentina finish in the automatic qualification spots regardless of results elsewhere.
If Colombia beat Peru and Chile fail to beat Brazil in Sao Paulo, an Argentina win would see them finish in the top four and thus they would qualify for the World Cup.
However, if both Colombia and Chile win, even if Argentina won, they would likely finish in the play-off spot due to the fact that their goal-difference and goals scored pales in comparison to the other teams.
If Colombia beat Peru and Argentina draw with Ecuador, Jorge Sampaoli's side could qualify for the inter-confederation play-off, but that would depend on seventh-place Paraguay either drawing or losing at home to Venezuela.
If Peru manage to beat Colombia in Lima (which would avenge their 2-0 loss in Barranquilla), Argentina will need to win in Quito in order to ensure they qualify for the play-off. A draw against Ecuador in that scenario would leave the Albiceleste at the mercy of other results and their current complexion in terms of goal difference, as well as goals scored is relatively unhealthy.
So, as you can see, Argentina's route to the World Cup is not a straightforward one, and they will be doing everything in their power to ensure victory in their final game in order to boost their chances.