CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying preview: Last call for Russia

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A World Cup without Lionel Messi is a very real possibility, but Argentina is not the lone big name in danger of missing out on Russia.

Tuesday brings the final five matches of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, and only Brazil and — to a lesser extent — Uruguay can feel confident about their places in this summer’s big dance.

[ MORE: USMNT scenarios for final day of WCQ ]

The penultimate match day saw Argentina draw at home to Peru amongst a number of interesting score lines.

Table heading into Matchday 18
Brazil (qualified) — 38 pts, +27 GD, 38 goals
Uruguay (clinched at least 5th) — 28, +10, 28 goals
Chile — 26, +2, 26 goals
Colombia — 26, +2, 20 goals
Peru — 25, +1, 26 goals
Argentina — 25, +1, 16 goals
Paraguay — 24, -5, 19 goals
Ecuador (eliminated) — 20, -1, 25 goals
Bolivia (eliminated) — 14, -20, 14 goals
Venezuela (eliminated) — 9,-17, 18 goals

Matchday 18
Brazil vs. Chile
Ecuador vs. Argentina
Paraguay vs. Venezuela
Peru vs. Colombia
Uruguay vs. Bolivia

The one to circle is Peru vs. Colombia, the only match where both sides are alive on the Road to Russia.

Chile’s trip to Brazil is troubling because even the hosts’ B Team is powerful and no player will risk not impressing with a place in Russia on the line.

Argentina’s visit to Ecuador could be what’s best for Messi and Co., as La Tricolor may still be reeling from elimination on Matchday 17.

Paraguay is home to Venezuela and Uruguay to Bolivia, with both feeling confident about their chances.

The predictions

Chile cannot get past Brazil, but earns a good-looking point

Messi drives Argentina over the line with a win at Ecuador.

Paraguay edges Venezuela

Peru and Colombia split the spoils in Lima.

Uruguay handles Bolivia.

World Cup berths for Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia. Paraguay finishes fifth an earns a playoff date with New Zealand. Peru and Chile are left out of the 2018 World Cup.