Two games, two wins for Argentina to start the World Cup Qualifiers as the Albiceleste picked up a huge 2-1 victory away to Bolivia in La Paz, thanks to goals from Lautaro Martínez and Joaquín Correa. Barcelona captain Lionel Messi played all 90 minutes in the altitude and clearly suffered the effects along with his teammates, but Argentina found a way to come back and win the most challenging game in the South American Qualifiers, something not a lot of teams will do.
Playing in La Paz is pretty much the same as playing in Mount Everest, and teams who aren’t used to the altitude suffer A LOT, and that’s exactly what happened with Argentina.
The Albiceleste tried not to press high up the pitch so they didn’t have to run too much, but their defense wasn’t solid enough to cope without the ball and Bolivia started creating chance after chance until Marcelo Moreno gave the home team the lead with a free header in the box.
After conceding Argentina tried to push forward but the midfield lacked creativity, and the best chance came on a Leandro Paredes shot against the post. But right before halftime, Lautaro Martínez blocked a clearance from a Bolivia player and saw the ball go into the net, scoring a lucky but hugely important goal for the visitors.
At halftime, Argentina weren’t playing well and were suffering with the circumstances but somehow weren’t losing ahead of the second half.
The second half was just terrible to watch. Bolivia couldn’t keep up the same intensity from the first half and showed zero attacking prowess while Argentina clearly looked to conserve energy and try and create one big chance to find the winner. There was no pace and a lot of fouls, and the game just wasn’t fun.
Until Lautaro found Correa all alone inside the box, and the substitute scored a pretty goal with his left foot to give Argentina the lead with 10 minutes to go. As Bolivia desperately tried to find an equalizer, Argentina gave the ball to Messi and asked him to hold on to it for as long as he could to waste time until the final whistle.
The final whistle came to give Argentina their first win in La Paz in over 15 years, and three giant points in their qualifying campaign. Bolivia are a terrible team but have a giant advantage with the altitude, and Argentina managed to conquer it. Big time stuff.
Bolivia: Lampe; Torres, Carrasco, Valverde, Sagredo; Wayar (Orozco 83’); Chumacero (Miranda 66’), Castro (Cespedes 66’), Cardozo (Árabe 87’); Moreno, Saucedo (Bustamante 46’)
Goal: Moreno (24’)
Argentina: Armani; Montiel, Martínez, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul (Domínguez 69’), Paredes (Rodríguez 69’), Palacios; Messi, Lautaro, Ocampos (Correa 59’)
Goals: Lautaro (44’), Correa (79’)