Bolivia will have a tough time for Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday as they face each other in a high altitude qualifier for the FIFA World Cup in La Paz.
“We have to avoid the Bolivian lawsuit of being the poor little things,” said Bolivia’s coach Cesar Farias, according to ESPN. “Let them say we’re bad, it doesn’t matter. But we want to eat the liver of our opponents on high. “
Bolivia receives Argentina at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz – one of the country’s two capitals – at 3,600 meters above sea level.
“Playing in Hernando Siles is not like playing in any other city,” added Farias. “There is nothing like it.”
The high altitude can be difficult for players to negotiate if they haven’t acclimatized, and they can be difficult to breathe, nauseous, and lightheaded.
In South America’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup, La Verde managed to claim home wins against Argentina and Chile and to keep Brazil tied in La Paz.
Bolivia’s 2-0 defeat by Argentina in 2017 is hardly the first time La Albiceleste has struggled with conditions in La Paz.
In 2009, Bolivia destroyed Messi and his teammates 6-1 in what was the nation’s worst defeat in 60 years.
Four years later, the Argentine captain vomited on the pitch at Hernando Siles when Bolivia drew 1-1 while team-mate Angel Di Maria needed oxygen.
“It’s horrible to play at height here, so a draw is a good result for us,” Messi said at the time. “Every time you exert yourself or play at a fast pace, you need time to relax.
“Some of the players had headaches and others felt a bit dizzy, but I couldn’t fault me.”
Messi has played several other high altitude games in Bogota, Colombia and Quito, Ecuador. Of the six games he played in La Paz, Bogota and Quito, he only helped Argentina win once. That win, however, came in his last game at high altitude when he scored a hat-trick in Quito to secure a 3-1 win over Ecuador in November 2017.
La Albiceleste opened their World Cup qualifiers on Thursday with a 1-0 home win over Ecuador thanks to a Messi penalty.
Argentina traveled to La Paz on Sunday and gave them two nights to get used to the altitude before Tuesday’s game. However, it is believed that the effects of altitude sickness are worst after two to three days, so the decision to pursue it could come back.
However, Bolivia have just won two of their last 23 games – against Myanmar and Haiti – and lost nine of their last ten games, most recently against Brazil 5-0 on Friday.
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