Bolivia 1-1 Argentina
26 March 2013
World Cup Qualifier
Estadio Hernando Siles, La Paz
Scorers: Martins (Bolivia), Banega (Argentina)
Argentina remain Unofficial Football World Champions after this tough draw in Bolivia. La Albiceleste had to come from behind in difficult circumstances, but held on to retain their title. Lionel Messi produced another breathless performance, but not in the manner that might have been expected.
The CONMEBOL 2014 World Cup qualifier was played at La Paz’s Estadio Hernando Siles, which is almost 12,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest sports stadiums in the world. The altitude certainly had a negative effect on Argentina, and at times Messi and company could be seen puffing due to the lack of oxygen.
The match kicked off at 1600 local time, or 2000 GMT (causing problems for UFWC fans watching from bars in London by clashing with the Montenegro versus England match). Gonzalo Higuain was suspended, so Argentina lined up with captain Messi supporting Rodrigo Palacio up front.
Influential midfielder Pablo Escobar missed out for Xabier Azkargorta’s Bolivia, who went with a front pairing of Carlos Saucedo and Marcelo Moreno Martins. (The latter is known as Marcelo Martins in Bolivia, and Marcelo Moreno in Brazil, where he plays his club football for Gremio.)
Estadio Hernando Siles by Manuel Menal / Flickr
Bolivia, playing in green shirts, started brightly, but it was white and sky blue Argentina who had the first chance. Bolivia are the only CONMEBOL side Lionel Messi has never scored against, and his poor free kick was nowhere near changing that.
Then Bolivia went much closer to scoring. Full-back Marvin Bejarano sneaked in behind the Argentina back four, only to see his near-post shot brilliantly saved by Sergio Romero and cleared over the bar.
Soaking up pressure, Argentina attempted to hit Bolivia on the break through Messi and Angel di Maria. The latter set up Palacio, but the Inter Milan striker could only drive his shot against onrushing Bolivia keeper Sergio Galarza.
Bolivia’s goal was a textbook centre-forward’s header from Marcelo Martins. The Gremio striker rose brilliantly to power a glorious Alejandro Chumacero cross past Romero and into the back of the next. 24 minutes on the clock and Bolivia led 1-0.
Argentina looked for a quick response, and Di Maria went close twice within a minute, first with a header, and then with a shot that he dragged just wide of the goal. Bolivia also created chances, forcing Argentina’s back line to block a couple of shots from the edge of the box.
There were clear signs that Argentina were flagging due to the altitude, but a suitable tonic was provided in the form of an equaliser just before half time. Messi found Clemente Rodriguez on the left, and his cross was met by a stooping header from Éver Banega. It was the Valencia midfielder’s first international goal. 1-1.
Banega had Argentina’s best chance of the second half, with his curling shot brilliantly saved by Galarza. A Messi free kick that Galarza clawed away, and a highly optimistic Javier Mascherano shot from the halfway line were other Albiceleste efforts of note. Finally, Messi found himself one-on-one with Galarza, but the below-par star scuffed his attempted chip straight at the keeper.
Bolivia brought on striker Juan Carlos Arce as they pushed for a win, but for all their effort and possession they were pretty much restricted to shots from outside of the Argentina penalty area. There were no further goals, and the match ended as a draw.
That of course means that Argentina remain UFWC champions, and in terms of World Cup qualification they remain top of the CONMEBOL qualifying table. Argentina’s next UFWC title defence is another World Cup qualifier, against Colombia on 7 June. Colombia have won eight previous UFWC title matches, and are currently placed second behind Argentina in the World Cup qualifying table. Argentina won the previous qualifier between the two sides 2-1.
We will of course bring you a full preview of the Argentina versus Colombia title match nearer the time. Until then, keep a look out for big news and changes here at the UFWC, which is set to get even better as 2013 continues. You can keep up to date by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
Argentina 3-0 Venezuela
22 March 2013
World Cup Qualifier
El Monumental, Buenos Aires
Scorers: Higuaín (2), Messi (pen)
Unofficial Football World Champions Argentina continued their formidable unbeaten run as they swept aside Venezuela. Gonzalo Higuaín and captain Lionel Messi were again the star men for the Albiceleste, who now look certain to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
This was matchday 11 of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification tournament. As you would imagine, football tickets were snapped up quickly for this one, and Buenos Aires’ El Monumental was packed with supporters looking forward to seeing Argentina at home for the first time in 2013.
Lionel Messi Poster, Buenos Aires by Adam Jones / Flickr
Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina lined up with a front three of Higuaín, Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi, with Walter Montillo in for the suspended Angel Di Maria in midfield. The four men combined well in the early stages of the game, and Messi forced Venezuela goalkeeper Dani Hernandez into a couple of smart saves.
The breakthrough came just before the half-hour mark, when Montillo fed Messi, who slipped a brilliant first-time ball into the penalty area, and the on-rushing Higuaín fired a right-foot shot into the back of the net.
Argentina’s second goal had an element of good fortune about it, but it was created by a brilliant run from Messi, who surged from the half-way line into the Venezuela penalty area. Defender Gabriel Cichero made a challenge, and as the ball bounced up in the air, he attempted to flick it away with his shoulder. The referee immediately awarded a penalty. There was only one man who was going to take the kick. Messi, still puffing from the exertion of his run, whacked a brilliant shot into the top left corner of the goal. It was 2-0 to Argentina at half-time.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, the game was effectively over. Another surging run and forward pass from Messi found Higuaín, who poked the ball past Hernandez to score his ninth goal of the qualifying tournament. Barcelona’s Messi and Real Madrid’s Higuaín embraced in celebration. Theirs is a devastating partnership for Argentina.
Venezuela created little, and supposed star men Juan Arango and José Salomón Rondón were both substituted. Having themselves looked on course to qualify for the World Cup, Venezuela now face a battle to be in Brazil in 2014.
The next UFWC title match comes around really quickly. It’s another World Cup qualifier, with Argentina travelling to Bolivia this Tuesday, 26 March. Bolivia have decent UFWC form, and have won five previous title matches, although never since 1994. They’ve also been on the end of one of the biggest-ever UFWC defeats, losing 8-1 to Brazil in 1953. The previous World Cup Qualifier between Argentina and Bolivia – played in Buenos Aires in November 2011, ended as a 1-1 draw.
The match will be played at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, and kick off on Tuesday is 16:00 local time (20:00 GMT). You can watch a free and legal live stream of Bolivia vs Argentina via our friends at Bet365. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t already have one, but you don’t need to make a bet. If you do open an account and decide to make a deposit of £10 or more, you’ll be entitled to up to £200 in free bets. Just click on the link below.