Argentina beat La Paz's heights without Messi
Ever since the Ecuador match, there had been uncertainty. Lionel Messi's availability against Bolivia was a matter of curiosity. Even the day before the match, coach Lionel Scaloni hadn't confirmed whether Messi would play in this match. He stated that he would make a decision until the last moment. However, Messi's absence had disappointed his fans.
Scaloni did not keep Messi outside of the squad for the Bolivia match but left him on the bench. This means it was certain that Messi wouldn't step onto the field in this match. The absence of Messi didn't make it significantly harder for Argentina to secure a victory against Bolivia. In the World Cup qualifiers, Argentina has won all six matches played so far. Despite scoring 17 goals in these matches, Argentina hasn't conceded a single goal.
La Paz was not the opponent's team; rather, it was the altitude itself that posed a challenge for Argentina. Situated 3,225 meters (approximately 10,580 feet) above sea level, most of the time, players suffer from oxygen deficiency. Bolivia also traveled to Argentina with oxygen masks. Even Emiliano Martinez mentioned experiencing oxygen deficiency. Keeping Messi out was partially due to these factors.
Before this match, Messi had left the field in the final moments due to an injury against Ecuador. The altitude, Messi's physical condition, age, and injury concerns contributed to the decision to leave him out. However, Messi didn't express frustration about this decision, unlike some others. Argentina had already secured victory in the World Cup qualifiers, winning all six matches. In these matches, Argentina scored 17 goals but didn't concede any.
The Bolivia match was held in La Paz, where the altitude proved to be a big factor. Argentina's performance and Messi's absence due to these considerations had been anticipated. During the match, Argentina tried to outperform Bolivia in terms of acclimatization. Bolivia, on the other hand, emphasized the advantage of playing on their home ground.
Although Messi quickly returned after the match, it didn't give Bolivia an advantage. In the end, after 13 minutes, Ansu Fati scored a fantastic goal with a curling shot, putting Bolivia ahead. However, Argentina equalized in the 31st minute with a well-executed goal by Angel Di Maria, assisted by Julian Alvarez. Di Maria extended Argentina's lead with a brilliant free-kick goal.
Despite these two goals, Argentina couldn't secure an overwhelming victory. After the break, Bolivia continued to pose challenges to Argentina. However, the match ended with a 3-0 victory for the reigning world champions, Argentina. Prior to this, in the first match of the qualifiers, Argentina had defeated Ecuador with a goal from Messi.