The 'albiceleste' are in danger of missing out on their first World Cup since 1970
Brazil returned to Belo Horizonte on Thursday night and banished the ghosts of their 7-1 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup with a win over their neighbours and fierce rivals, Argentina.
Neymar, Coutinho and Paulinho all found the back of the net as they emerged 3-0 winners, with a superb strike from the Liverpool star opening the scoring on the night.
Argentina lacked the urgency and insistence that they showed to reach the final of the World Cup and Copa America, and they were punished for their lackadaisical attitude on the pitch. That leaves Edgardo Bauza's side sitting in sixth in the race for qualification for the World Cup in 2018, behind Chile who are also struggling to recapture their recent form.
The final result could have been even worse for Argentina, as Firmino struck the woodwork late on and Neymar managed to create a number of dangerous opportunities to add to the score. On the opposite side, Messi became increasingly isolated as the game wore on, while Gonzalo Higuaín and Ángel Di María both looked to be feeling the pace of the game against the seleção, who were playing some beautiful, flowing football.
Bauza will have a lot to consider as he gets ready for the visit of Colombia on Tuesday night, who sit in third place in the group, behind leaders Brazil and Uruguay in the standings.
With only four places and a playoff spot up for grabs, the path to Russia, seen as perhaps Messi's last chance to claim glory with the national team after he retired and then returned earlier this year, now looks a long, long way off.
Speaking after the game, Messi said: "Now it’s a lot more complicated. We have to think about Colombia knowing that we have to improve greatly. We can’t afford to have one more match playing like we’ve been playing, because we won’t get out of this situation in this way.
"Our destiny is still in our own hands. We can’t drop more points, especially at home, where we know we have to improve a lot. But if we beat Colombia, our destiny stays in our own hands."