Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970, stumbling to a 0-0 draw against Peru before a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires.

Only one round of qualifying remains in South America.

Argentina, the runner-up to Germany in the World Cup three years ago in Brazil, plays on Tuesday against Ecuador in the thin air of Quito in the Andes. The Argentines are in sixth place, with the top four teams advancing automatically. The fifth-place team can advance by winning a playoff against New Zealand.

It's too close to call. But Uruguay is expected to get through the final round on Tuesday. After that, four teams are chasing the two automatic spots.

That will leave two teams trying to reach the playoff, which looks like Argentina's only route. It must win at 2,850 metres  in Quito and get some help.

South America results

  • Bolivia 0-0 Brazil
  • Venezuela 0-0 Uruguay
  • Argentina 0-0 Peru
  • Colombia 1-2 Paraguay
  • Chile 2-1 Ecuador 

Germany, England book spots

Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year, while Poland was made to wait for qualification in Europe despite thrashing Armenia 6-1 on Thursday.

Defending champion Germany never looked like missing out as early goals helped it to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, maintaining its perfect record with nine wins from nine games in Group C.


England qualified in contrasting fashion, scraping past Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane's injury-time strike in a poor team performance at Wembley Stadium.

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in Yerevan, Armenia, to become Poland's all-time highest scorer and put his team on the verge of qualification.

A draw later between Montenegro and Denmark would have meant Poland clinched Group E, but Christian Eriksen gave Denmark a 1-0 win in Podgorica to keep alive its slim hope of topping the group.

Group winners qualify automatically for the finals in Russia.

Here's a closer look at today's qualifying action:

Group E: Lewandowski surpasses Ronaldo 

With his third hat trick in the campaign, Poland striker Lewandowski became the most prolific scorer in a European qualifying campaign with 15, one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lewandowski curled in a free kick to tie Wlodzimierz Lubanski's record as Poland's all-time leading scorer on 48 goals and then added two more to own it outright with 50.


Following Denmark's 1-0 win in Montenegro, Poland leads by three points over Denmark, and it needs a point from the last-round match on Sunday against Montenegro in Warsaw to automatically qualify as the group winner.

Denmark, which handed Poland its only defeat in the group stage by 4-0, hosts Romania in the last round and must win to top the group.

Kane secures England's place

Kane secured England's place in the fourth minute of additional time when he latched onto Kyle Walker's cross and struck under goalkeeper Jan Oblak for the side's flattering win over Slovenia.

It was a rare highlight on a dreary and subdued night that highlighted the limitations of Gareth Southgate's Russia-bound team.

England, which hasn't missed a World Cup since 1994, could still be joined in Russia next year by neighbor Scotland.

Martin Skrtel's own goal gave Scotland a 1-0 victory over 10-man Slovakia in Glasgow. The Scots, missing from the World Cup since 1998, will be guaranteed second place and a potential place in the playoffs if they beat Slovenia in the last round of games on Sunday.


European results:

  • Azerbaijan 1-2 Czech Republic
  • Armenia 1-6 Poland
  • San Marino 0-8 Norway
  • Northern Ireland 1-3 Germany
  • Romania 3-1 Kazakhstan
  • Montenegro 0-1 Denmark
  • England 1-0 Slovenia
  • Malta 1-1 Lithuania 
  • Scotland 1-0 Slovakia 

Al-Soma's late penalty keeps Syria's hopes alive

Omar al-Soma won a late penalty and converted from the spot to give Syria a 1-1 draw with Australia on Thursday and keep the war-torn country's World Cup hopes alive.

Syria scored in the 85th minute after Mathew Leckie was penalized for his aerial challenge on al-Soma.

The Syrians, who have never before qualified for a World Cup, are facing Australia in a two-leg Asian playoff for the right to go into an intercontinental playoff.

The Australians dominated in the first half and led 1-0 at the break. Robbie Kruse timed his run perfectly to get a touch past goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma in the 40th minute.

The Syrians rallied in the second half, with al-Soma and Omar Khribin creating opportunities. The tempo lifted further when veteran forward Firas Al Khatib came on in the 75th.

Australia will host the return leg in Sydney next Tuesday.