13 Jun 2013

Argentina miss a chance to seal a place at World Cup finals

5:54 am on 13 June 2013

Argentina's hopes of sealing qualification for next year's football World Cup were thwarted in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador, as Colombia took a massive stride towards the finals in Brazil with victory over Peru.

The Argentines, who once again left Lionel Messi on the bench, had to settle for a point at the Olympic Stadium in Quito.

Ugly scenes marred the closing stages, with Argentina captain Javier Mascherano sent off for kicking a medic who was stretchering him off the pitch in an incident that triggered a prolonged touchline melee.

Argentina could have qualified for Brazil with a victory.

The result left Argentina on top of the nine-team South American zone qualifiers with 26 points from 13 games, with three matches left to play.

Ecuador are third in the standings with 21 points after 12 games.

Second-placed Colombia edged towards their first World Cup finals appearance since the 1998 tournament with a clinical 2-0 win over Peru in their port stronghold of Barranquilla.

The top four teams automatically qualify for Brazil, with the fifth-placed team facing a playoff against their Asian counterpart.