Six reasons for Argentina’s 6-1 defeat to Bolivia
Argentine media allocate dozens of pages to football daily and the country has two 24-hour cable channels almost exclusively dedicated to the sport. Quite often it’s a struggle to fill all that paper and airtime — so much so that one of the TV channels passes away the afternoon with a programme in which the presenters play foot-tennis.
But on Thursday, there was more than enough to talk about. How did Argentina, supposedly revitalised by Diego Maradona, lose 6-1 away to Bolivia, one of the region’s weakest teams, in a World Cup qualifier?
Reuters Soccer Blog has come up with six possible reasons, listed in no particular order:
(1) Altitude. Considered the main culprit by many. Most people struggle to walk uphill on their first day in arriving in La Paz, at 3,600 metres above sea level. It is quite common to wake up during the night with a suffocating feeling and the general consensus is that roughly three weeks are needed for full acclimatisation. So imagine playing 90 minutes of football as soon as your arrive.
(2) The players. Argentina’s players had a collective off day. As Maradona said: “We were outplayed in every part of the field.” Angel di Maria, scorer of the winning goal in last year’s Olympic soccer final against Nigeria, was sent off after only seven minutes.
(3) Maradona. Since taking over last October, the coach has talked endlessly about commitment, work rate and the importance of The Shirt. On Wednesday, however, he did not seem to have done his homework. He played down the altitude factor, telling his players: “Bolivia are the opponents, not the altitude.” The team flew in two hours before kick off and Maradona started with nine players who played against Venezuela five days earlier. Chile, in contrast, spent over a week in a high altitude training camp before visiting La Paz earlier in the campaign. They won 2-1.
(4) Bolivia. The hosts are an unpredictable lot, at any altitude. The World Cup campaign has seen them lose 5-0 in Uruguay but they have also held Brazil to a goalless draw away. Joaquin Botero, who scored a hat-trick on Wednesday, plays in the Mexican second division and his striking partner Marcelo Martins, who played havoc with the Argentina defence, has been warming the substitute’s bench at Shakhtar Donetsk. But both looked world beaters on Wednesday.
(5) Riquelme. The enigmatic playmaker quit the Argentina team last month after falling out with Maradona. But his ability to slow the game and keep possession was sorely missed in the rarefied air.
(6) Luck. Everything went Bolivia’s way. FIFA somehow decided that their cabbage patch of a pitch was suitable for international football, everything they tried worked to perfection and they were awarded a soft penalty when the score was at 1-1.
PHOTO: Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona looks on during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Bolivia in La Paz April 1, 2009. REUTERS/Gaston Brito