Despite the miserable qualifying campaign, victory in La Bombonera against Peru was supposed to be straight forward and push Argentina into the World Cup. Jorge Sampaoli’s first objective would be complete and the work of prepping for Russia could begin. If only life were that simple. Another frustrating blank saw La Albiceleste only pick up a point and now only victory in Quito on Tuesday will likely save Argentina from the ultimate humiliation.
Sergio Romero – 6
A virtual spectator for almost the entire game, Sergio Romero’s one telling contribution was a smart save from Paolo Guerrero’s 94th minute free kick. Were it not for that stop, things could have been even worse for Argentina.
Gabriel Mercado – 5
Switched back to the right-back role that River Plate supporters will be more familiar with, Gabriel Mercado failed to make any real impact. Argentina were crying out for some quality width but while the Sevilla defender has proved his worth during this campaign, he isn’t the marauding full-back that the system required.
Javier Mascherano – 7
For most who have been crying out for Javier Mascherano to start in central defence there was a degree of vindication in seeing Argentina’s little chief impress alongside Nicolás Otamendi. His never-say-die attitude was still evident but the 33-year-old stepped up into midfield to drive Argentina forward and came close with an excellent 30-yard shot.
Nicolás Otamendi – 6.5
Taking on the physical battle with a centre forward like Paolo Guerrero is never easy but Nicolás Otamendi was up to task and on the whole came out on top against Peru’s number nine.
Marcos Acuña – 5.5
It was a promising first half display from Marcos Acuña in his new position as he regularly looked to overlap past Papu Gómez and provided the width that Jorge Sampaoli would have wanted. However, the Sporting CP midfielder drifted out of the game and gradually his influence diminished to the point of almost anonymity.
Lucas Biglia – 4.5
Other than a superb long range effort that almost gave Argentina the breakthrough it was a forgettable night for Lucas Biglia. Not incisive enough to aid Sampaoli’s team offensively, going forward the AC Milan midfielder’s place is surely in question.
Éver Banega – 2.5
Éver Banega may have been one of Jorge Sampaoli’s favourites but his performance against Peru was utterly dreadful. Wasteful in possession and unable to link with any other Argentina player, the Sevilla schemer was supposed to lessen Messi’s load creatively but offered nothing.
Ángel Di María – 3
If Ángel Di María wasn’t fit after just returning from injury for Paris Saint-Germain, the decision to start him in such an important game should be questioned. A frustrating figure at the best of times, El Fideo looked off the pace and playing on the right was naturally looking to come inside on his left rather than provide any width. Hauled off at the break, Di María is another whose long-term place in the side is debatable.
Lionel Messi – 7
It wasn’t vintage Lionel Messi by a long stretch but on another day, Argentina’s captain would have scored one and made three or four. Shouldering the entire attacking burden, Messi created clear chances for Darío Benedetto (twice), Papu Gómez and Emiliano Rigoni but by his own standards should have scored when he struck the post. Argentina’s dependence remains exactly the same and not even the greatest player on earth can help at the moment.
Alejandro Gómez – 5
After a bright start down the left, Papu Gómez appeared to taking his chance, demonstrating that he could provide a more permanent option in the side. However, the Atalanta star faded away badly and his only real contribution after half time was a bad miss and a dreadful dive.
Darío Benedetto – 4
No Higuaín, no Agüero and no Icardi, Jorge Sampaoli put a great deal of faith in Darío Benedetto but on his home turf, the Boca striker fluffed his audition. Argentina’s number nine woes continued but Pipa certainly had the chances — a relatively simple header over the bar and two shots straight at Pedro Gallese contributed to the stalemate.
Emiliano Rigoni – 5.5
Replacing Di María at half time, Emiliano Rigoni certainly offered more than the Paris Saint-Germain winger but still failed to lift Argentina. A wonderful block denied Rigoni a sure goal from close range but perhaps the former Independiente youngster should have done better.
Chasing the game and with Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi sitting on the bench, the wisdom behind Fernando Gago’s introduction could be questioned. Regardless it was heartbreaking to see the injury prone Boca star slump to the turf in obvious pain after six minutes with a serious knee injury. Gago knew his knee ligaments were ruptured but desperately tried to play on and while it is certainly the end of his Argentina career after such a dreadful record it may be a sad end to his playing days.
Jorge Sampaoli’s final change was forced on him by Fernando Gago’s swift injury and so Enzo Pérez was introduced. However, the River Plate midfielder made very little impact.