Argentina 'deserve' to be at 2018 World Cup, says Jorge Sampaoli
Last Updated: 10/10/17 11:16pm
Jorge Sampaoli says Argentina "deserve" to be at the 2018 World Cup ahead of their pivotal final qualifier on Tuesday night.
Argentina, who reached the final three years ago in Brazil, lie in sixth place in the 10-team South American group, currently outside the qualifying places for Russia.
The top four qualify automatically and the fifth-placed side go into a play-off against Oceania winners New Zealand. Argentina need a win in Ecuador on Tuesday to guarantee at least a play-off place, although a draw and even a defeat could be enough if other results go their way.
"Argentina has shown the personality to demonstrate what it is, superior to the rest," said Argentina head coach Sampaoli. "I hope we qualify because, looking beyond the numbers, Argentina deserves it.
"The message I'm spreading to the players is that they have in one hand the high [of Quito], Ecuador, the challenges and the missed goals. But on the other hand we have the conviction, our players and the chance to be 90 minutes away to the World Cup.
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"We have [Lionel] Messi, all our different options and the fact that during the last two matches we have created 28 goal chances"
Argentina, who have won the World Cup twice, have taken just three points in their last four games.
Sampaoli, who took over in June and has yet to record a competitive win, has not named his side for the match but midfielder Fernando Gago is out, and Argentina may well look to Lionel Messi to lead them to Russia.
"During the last three matches I had the chance to coach an incredible Messi, committed, pressing, running and assisting," said Sampaoli. "If we are up to Messi's standards in tomorrow's game then we'll be alright."
Argentina have beaten Ecuador only once in a World Cup qualifier in Quito, where the high altitude makes life difficult for visiting teams. While Argentina still have high hopes of reaching the World Cup, opponents Ecuador have nothing to play for but pride at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa.
They have lost their last five qualifiers and sacked their coach Gustavo Quinteros last month with caretaker boss Jorge Celico now in charge.
Celico is from Buenos Aires but said possibly toppling his home nation is part of the job.
"Destiny puts things in your path that you don't imagine," he said. "I have a big commitment to the people of Ecuador, because I have done my (coaching career) here. I have to be thankful for that and do my best, as is right."
Follow Ecuador v Argentina live across Sky Sports digital platforms from midnight on Tuesday.