Lionel Messi, Argentina standing in All Whites' path to 2018 World Cup

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NZN

One of up to seven South American teams will be New Zealand's opponents if they advance to the World Cup inter-confederation play-off.

Lionel Messi

Source: Associated Press

But at this stage, it's still Argentina.

The 15th round of CONMEBOL (South American) qualifying matches on Friday (NZT) left two-time world champions Argentina ranked fifth of 10 teams.

The top four teams after the 18th and final round will earn automatic berths at next year's FIFA World Cup, with the fifth-ranked team forced into a two-leg play-off in November against the Oceania top qualifiers.

The Oceania berth will be decided on Friday and Tuesday, when the highly-favoured All Whites face the Solomon Islands in two legs.

World No.3 Argentina have struggled for their best form in the World Cup qualifiers, leaving them with a fight on their hands to at least finish fifth.

Their 0-0 draw with Uruguay in Montevideo places pressure on the team captained by modern great Lionel Messi, whose side could potentially be forced to travel to Wellington on

November 6 for the first leg of a play-off. The second would be in South America eight days later.

With three rounds remaining, powerhouses Brazil are the only CONMEBOL team guaranteed to be to Russia. They stretched their lead with a 2-0 home win over Ecuador.

Sitting just in front of Argentina are Colombia, Uruguay and Chile. Just behind are Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador. Peru beat Bolivia 2-1 and Paraguay stunned Chile 3-0 to both move into contention.

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