Bolivia vs Argentina Soccer
Argentina was the runner-up in the 2014 World Cup. This time it’s under rising pressure just to qualify for the Russia 2018 Cup. Star Lionel Messi has been banned from Argentina’s next four World Cup qualifiers, starting with Tuesday’s game in Bolivia. FIFA said he was banned for verbally abusing an assistant referee during a home qualifier against Chile on Thursday.
A four-game winless run put Argentina’s World Cup qualification hopes under serious threat, though back-to-back victories over Colombia and Chile have enabled them to move up into a provisional spot at Russia 2018. They’ll be hoping to maintain their momentum on Tuesday, when they travel to a Bolivia side that have won just two of their 13 qualifying games.
Though Argentina are doubtless favourites, with Bolivia’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup already all but over, the game could prove more difficult for Edgardo Bauza’s men than you’d expect. The altitude in La Paz makes it very difficult for opposing teams to play there, with Bolivia memorably smashing Argentina 6-1 at home in a World Cup qualification game in 2009
. Argentina have made it to every World Cup since 1974, though this current qualification campaign has been more nervy than most. They still have problems on and off the field, and relied on a Lionel Messi penalty to see off Chile 1-0 last week.
After a slow start to the grueling South American World Cup Qualifying Campaign, Argentina have won their last two games and finds are in third place as they head to Bolivia. Following a brief hiatus, Lionel Messi returned to the national team, and his comeback has coincided with Argentina’s return to winning ways.
The Argentine head coach, Edgardo Bauza, has a delicate decision ahead of him regarding his forward pairing, as front man Gonzalo Higuain is suspended for this game. It will be interesting to see if he opts for Sergio Aguero or Lucas Pratto. While Pratto is not as heralded as Aguero, he’s more of a traditional number 9 and may better compliment Messi’s game.
As is the case with many other teams, Argentina have had a rough time playing in the rarefied air of La Paz, Bolivia, at almost 12,000 feet altitude. As recently as 2009, Bolivia administered a 6-1 defeat to the Albiceleste, with the altitude and playing conditions having a major impact on the game.
Bolivia are in ninth place, 13 points away from a qualifying place. It’s looking like they will miss out on yet another World Cup. Three points would be a tremendous result for the Argentines, enabling them to keep a hold on third place in the group, especially as their rivals Chile face last place Venezuela at home in Santiago de Chile, and should be able to pick up all three points.