Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup continues to heat up with a match between two of the best teams in South America in Argentina and Ecuador.
Brazil does not need to go through qualifying as the host country, which leaves four guaranteed spots in CONMEBOL for nine remaining countries. Argentina is currently on top of the table with 25 points in 12 matches, although Ecuador is not far behind with 20.
If the round robin ended today, both squads would be going to the World Cup. Unfortunately, there is still a lot left to be decided. Additionally, the two teams are coming off disappointing performances in their last appearances.
Argentina only managed a draw against Colombia, while Ecuador lost a road match to Peru.
Tuesday's contest will have a huge impact on the qualifying process, so be sure to catch every second of the action.
Where: Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa, Quito, Ecuador
When: Tuesday, June 11
Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: beIN Sport
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Argentina Player to Watch: Lionel Messi
Against Colombia, Argentina had to play most of the match without its best player and as a result was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw. Fortunately, it appears that Lionel Messi will finally return to the pitch for his national team.
According to Sky Sports, the talented forward has been cleared to play after missing the end of the La Liga season due to a hamstring injury. The health concerns carried over into the international season, and Argentina has suffered.
Hopefully, he should be able to play more of the match and possibly start this time out.
Even if he does not play the full 90 minutes, the Ballon d'Or winner can score anytime he touches the ball, which gives Argentina a huge advantage in this one.
Ecuador Player to Watch: Christian Benitez
If Ecuador wants to earn points from this match, it will need a strong performance out of Christian Benitez.
The forward is arguably the squad's best pure scorer and has proved that with three goals so far in eight qualifying matches. Additionally, he has good vision and has helped create opportunities for teammates with two assists.
Argentina has the ability to maintain possession for a long time in this match, which means that Benitez could end up with few touches. He needs to make the most of his chances and get goals for his team.
Prediction: Argentina 1, Ecuador 1
Argentina has not played particularly well in recent matches, although the squad will continue to get better as Lionel Messi returns to his normal level. He is one of the best players in the world and can change a match in an instant.
However, the squad will be without Gonzalo Higuain, who will miss the match due to a suspension. If Messi is not on the pitch, it is hard to determine where the offense will come from.
Ecuador should also get a boost from the location, as the squad has played extremely well at home during qualifying. It has won all six of its matches, some of them in convincing fashion. Conversely, Argentina has only two wins in five road contests to go with a pair of draws.
That being said, Ecuador might not have enough offensive power to actually get a win in this match. These two teams should leave with a draw and still remain in good position to qualify for the World Cup.
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