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Behind the numbers for France-Croatia

Five Aside
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Argentina, Lionel Messi must end Ecuador woes to seal World Cup spot

Argentina's hopes of reaching the World Cup will take them to one of their more challenging environments when they visit Ecuador in the final CONMEBOL qualifier on Tuesday.

La Albiceleste, captained by Barcelona star Lionel Messi, have won just two of six World Cup qualifiers held in Ecuador and once since the current format began in 1996.

By winning at the Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito at an altitude of 2,782 metres above sea level, Argentina would secure fifth place and advance to a playoff against New Zealand.

Argentina's most recent victory in Ecuador was on Aug. 15, 2001, when they won a World Cup qualifier 2-0 on goals by Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo.

The only other time Argentina won a World Cup qualifier in Ecuador was on Dec. 4, 1960, when they won 6-3.

Ecuador have defeated Argentina in three of their five home qualifiers under the current format.

They have also won just once in five other games held in Ecuador between the teams -- a 2-0 victory in the Copa America in 1947.

Argentina could also qualify for the playoff if they draw, Peru loses at home to Colombia and Paraguay does not defeat Venezuela at home, and they could qualify automatically if they win, Chile does not win at Brazil and Peru draws Colombia at home.

Only Brazil have qualified, with Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay joining Argentina in an attempt to advance.

Runners-up to Germany in 2014, Argentina may become the first country not to qualify for the World Cup after reaching the finals of the previous competition since Czechoslovakia missed out in 1966.

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