BELFAST (AP) - Defending champion Germany booked its place at next year's World Cup and stayed ideal in qualifying by beating Northern Ireland 3-1.
The result leaves Argentina in sixth-place, outside of the automatic top-four spots and behind fifth-place which would see them face New Zealand in a playoff. They're a point off Peru and only two behind fourth-place Colombia.
Argentina will reach at least a playoff if it wins its last qualifier on Tuesday in Quito, Ecuador, where all visiting teams gasp for air at 2,850 metres (9,350 feet).
Chile must play Brazil and if Chile is defeated and Argentina and Colombia beats Peru, Argentina could automatically qualify.
"I am hopeful and confident that, if we play with the conviction that we showed today, we will be in the World Cup", he told a press conference, even after Argentina's drought of without a competitive goal from open play extended past the 450-minute mark.
Argentina had the lion's share of possession and chances although good ones were scarce.
Only one day of qualifying games remains in South America, and Argentina is off the pace for direct qualification. Thanks to a 0-0 draw against Peru on Thursday evening, the heralded South American squad now sits in sixth place in the CONMEBOL region. Where Jorge Sampaoli has laboured is in attempting to manage a team filled with starlets.
Playing at the iconic La Bombonera - the home of Boca Juniors - Lionel Messi tried his best to get the win Argentina craved, hitting the post and setting up other good chances, but the visitors were unable to break down a well-drilled Peruvian side.
Despite an impressive roster that includes Messi, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi, goals have been the biggest problem for Argentina with their 16 strikes in 17 games the second worst record in the entire division.
Argentina's last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001.
It was later revealed that the 31-year-old had sustained a cruciate ligament injury, which makes this clip of him shouting at the Argentina physio to let him play on, even more extraordinary.
While a curling shot by Messi approaching half time went just wide of the goal.
Argentina have not missed a World Cup since 1970 and they should have enough quality and determination not to miss this one.
Indeed, if Argentina wins, any result from Peru and Colombia will be moot.