Bolivia are not a force to be reckoned in world football. Even though, once upon a time, they did manage to accumulate some talented individual to shock Brazil; but in the course of time, they became a jolly-bash for others – Brazil simply thrashed them at Sao Paulo and in their next encounter against Argentina at La Paz, which is situated at 3,650-metre above sea level, Bolivia were searching the way to bounce back because, at their own den, Bolivia are a different kettle of fish.

Even though, the high altitude and suffocating environment, suit Bolivia – sadly, it is a nightmare for the visitors and who else but Argentina know it better than any other opponents in Latin America.

Lionel Messi and his boys landed in La Paz with the buzz of that 6-1 thrashing in 2009. The Argentine manage, Scaloni emphasized on grit and determination – Messi proved to be the magic wand in the high altitude of La Paz.

Bolivia in a sorry state, but still planned to bounce back

Despite holding back several key first-teamers from the Brazil match, the Venezuelan boss, Cesar Farias, planned to make things tough for Argentina.

And on Monday, just over 24 hours before kick-off, Farias was the subject of a formal complaint from the FIFPRO world players’ union to the FIFA Ethics Committee, confirming a previous accusation filed by its Bolivian equivalent, FABOL.

It was another worry for a team whose preparations for the qualifiers have not been rosy.

According to Goal, “Just five of Bolivia’s squad are based overseas, including legendary striker Marcelo Martins, who was excused from the Brazil game in order to acclimatize to La Paz’s altitude and be in top shape against Argentina.”

“The rest belong to teams in a league which has been halted since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that Friday’s defeat was their first competitive outing in almost seven months.”

“To make matters even worse, the only two Bolivian sides who have played, Libertadores participants Bolivar and Jorge Wilstermann, refused to release their players, while Oriente Petrolero forced their three internationals to abandon the team hotel on the orders of the club president, ex-Verde enforcer Ronald Raldes. ‘I am not going to tell you not to leave but I want to be honest with you,’ Farias was caught telling one of the affected players, Ronaldo Sanchez, as he left.”

“In the meantime, hundreds of players remain in the gravest of financial situations, with the vast majority owed months of back-wages by clubs who have received almost zero income over the last six months and others, such as San Jose and Aurora’s footballers, who have been furloughed without pay or training since May.”

“Even if the dispute between Rodriguez, Blanco, and their respective backers can be solved, the football in the country faces further potential disruption in the form of upcoming presidential elections.

Still, Bolivia strike first

Within a few minutes, the horrors of 2009 and 2017 seemed to revisit when the home team went ahead.

Argentina fell behind when Marcelo Moreno Martins found the back of the net after 24 minutes. In Bolivia, the home team always sets the tempo and this was nothing unusual, but what was the subject of interest, how Argentina and Messi strike back.

Argentina – Sit back and counter tactic

Scaloni opted to sit back and catch Bolivia on the counterattack.

Even though the Argentine set up a 4-3-3 formation against Bolivia’s 4-4-2, their midfield decided to reduce the runs and remain steady – they invited Bolivia to press and run forward so that they leave spaces behind them.

Rodrigo de Paul, Paredes, and Palacio held firm behind the respective attackers and essayed the through balls in space towards Messi, who dribbled past the markers to create opportunities for Ocampos and Lautaro Martinez.

The compactness of the midfield also allowed Montiel and Tagliafico to join the attack when needed.

Scaloni’s tactics were to avoid suffocation and exploit the spaces – it worked well.

The comeback

Leandro Paredes saw a curling 20-yard strike crash back off the post as the Albiceleste threatened to score.

Argentina found the net before half-time.

Jose Carrasco’s clearance cannoned in off Lautaro Martinez, who became the first Albiceleste player other than Messi to score in a World Cup Qualifier since November 2016.

This is quite staggering!

After half-time, Argentina played with the same tactics.

Chances were at a premium until Messi’s delightful through-ball fashioned one for Martinez in the 75th minute. However, his cross-goal effort from the right side of the area was turned behind by Carlos Lampe.

There was nothing Lampe could do to keep out Correa,- who came in for Ocampos with just 11 minutes remaining – with the goal allowed to stand after a VAR check confirmed Martinez was onside from a Messi pass.

Argentina conquered La Paz while Bolivia are left thinking about their sorry state.