As if yesterday’s news of a four-match suspension for Lionel Messi wasn’t bad enough for Argentine football fans, the selección made things even worse by losing 2-0 to Bolivia in La Paz.
Things didn’t get off to the smoothest start for Bauza and his squad, with the head coach ending up on his backside just moments after stepping off the team bus.
But it went from bad to worse for the Albiceleste, who found themselves 1-0 down at half-time following a header from Juan Carlos Arce. Ángel Di María missed Argentina’s best chance of the game minutes before, while stand-in captain Ever Banega had forced a save from Bolivia keeper Carlos Lampe earlier on.
— Fede Chara (@FedericoChara) March 28, 2017
It wasn’t long before Bolivia had doubled their lead, either, with Marcelo Martins – who plays in China’s second division – scoring just seven minutes into the second-half. Argentina struggled to find a way back into the game and the score remained, making it their third consecutive visit to La Paz without a win.
After the game, Bauza admitted that it will be a “battle” to qualify, however remained positive: “We are still alive… we are going to keep fighting.”
“Bolivia won fair and square but we won’t give up”, he added.
Having risen to third in the table last Thursday, the loss leaves Argentina in fifth position – outside of the automatic qualifying positions – and reignites concerns over the team’s chances of making it to Russia next summer.
The absence of Lionel Messi could prove to be the determining factor, as statistics show that Argentina are a decidedly weaker side without him. In the seven qualifiers where he hasn’t featured, Argentina have won only once, against Colombia back in 2015.
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) March 28, 2017
There are still hopes, however, that the ban – which would see Messi miss three more matches – may be reduced, after AFA’s Armando Perez and Bauza yesterday confirmed that an appeal had been made. The sanction also came under criticism from Messi’s Barcelona teammates Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, who called it an “outrage“.
Argentina will now have to wait until August 31st to make amends, when they will face Uruguay in Montevideo.