La Paz has never been a happy hunting ground for Argentina but after Thursday’s performance against Chile and with FIFA suspending Lionel Messi hours before kick off, Bolivia’s 2-0 victory over La Albiceleste came as little surprise.
Aside from the absent Messi, Edgardo Bauza was forced into a number of changes and from kickoff his side were on the back foot.
Despite surrendering possession on countless occasions and Bolivia threatening regularly, it was Argentina that had the clearest opportunity against the run of play when Ángel Correa released Ángel Di María only for Carlos Lampe to smother his clipped effort.
That glimmer of hope was swiftly extinguished when Bolivia took the lead two minutes later. Pablo Escobar drifted a cross from deep into the penalty area and Juan Carlos Arce managed to outjump Facundo Roncaglia and head past Sergio Romero.
Argentina never looked like getting back into the game and shortly after time, the contest was effectively over when Marcelo Martins Moreno thrashed in a second after Enrique Flores drove down a weak Argentine left side to cross.
Bolivia were able to coast to the full time whistle and aside from Lucas Pratto failing to get on the end of a low Di María cross and Marcos Acuña drawing a save from Lampe there were few moments that Argentina looked like getting on the scoresheet.
The defeat in addition to Colombia’s victory in Ecuador and Chile beating Venezuela means Argentina slip to fifth.
“We are alive. This is a fight that we will keep fighting,” Bauza said in his post-match press conference and if any appeal of Messi’s four-match ban fails, it is set to be one hell of a fight.
Argentina face Uruguay in Montevideo next with qualification resumes at the end of August before a home game with Venezuela and finally matches with Peru and Ecuador in October.
Bauza expressed his suspicion over the suspension of Messi and the timing of FIFA’s decision just hours before kick off but conspiracy theories aside, Argentina simply haven’t been good enough.
Bolivia 2 – 0 Argentina