Image: Football Soccer – Chile v Argentina – World Cup 2018 Qualifier, at Nacional Stadium, Santiago, Chile, 24/3/16. Lionel Messi (10) of Argentina and Gonzalo Jara (18) of Chile in action. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
By Luis Ampuero
CORDOBA, Argentina (Reuters) – Bolivia will resist the temptation to man-mark brilliant Barcelona forward Lionel Messi when they visit Argentina for a 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
“There won’t be special marking on Messi,” said coach Julio Cesar Baldivieso who has been under fire since Bolivia lost 3-2 to Colombia on Tuesday.
“Football is played 11 against 11 and we are a team,” he told reporters. “To play against the best in the world has to be a motivation for the players.”
Bolivia have a mostly home-based squad containing four exiles who play their club football in United States, Israel, Kuwait and Sweden.
Argentina, World Cup runners-up in 2014, beat them 5-0 and 7-0 in two friendlies last year.
The home team must select a new centre back partnership after Manchester City’s Nicolas
Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton were suspended following yellow cards in Thursday’s 2-1 victory against Chile.
City’s Martin Demichelis looks set to play alongside Javier Pinola of Rosario Central who won his only cap nine years ago.
The state of the pitch at Cordoba’s Mario Kempes Stadium has been criticised in the Argentine media after damage was caused by two rock concerts held there earlier this month.
“We’ll practice at another venue this evening to settle on our team for tomorrow,” said Baldivieso, a member of the last Bolivia side to reach the finals in the United States in 1994.
The defeat by Colombia was Bolivia’s second in three home qualifiers at the Hernando Siles venue in La Paz as they failed to benefit from the rarefied air at high altitude that has traditionally helped them overcome stronger rivals.
Bolivia are second from bottom in the 10-nation South American group with three points from five matches, 10 adrift of leaders Ecuador and five behind fifth-placed Argentina.
The top four after 18 games qualify for the finals while the fifth team goes into an intercontinental playoff.
(Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Tony Jimenez)
Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.