Bolivia upsets Argentina in World Cup qualifier after Messi suspended for 4 matches

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2017,10:56 IST By joji A A A

Montevideo | Argentina’s World Cup qualification campaign took a tumble against Bolivia after their shock defeat and suspension of super star Lionel Messi.

And in a separate match at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, five-time world champions Brazil notched an eighth straight qualifying victory. Barcelona superstar Neymar scored a dazzling solo goal after Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring for Brazil. The win means Brazil are all but guaranteed to extend their record of never failing to qualify for the World Cup by securing their place in Russia.

Tuesday’s victory sees them lead the 10-team standings by nine points with four games remaining.

Uruguay could cut the lead to seven points with a win against Peru later Tuesday, but with the top four teams in South America qualifying for Russia, only a freak set of results can now deny Brazil a place in the finals.

After demolishing the Uruguayans 4-1 last Thursday in Montevideo, Brazil were made to wait for the breakthrough against Paraguay.

But while Brazil celebrated, Argentina and Messi were left digesting another stumble in their progress towards Russia as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat in La Paz.

Argentina had been rocked just hours before kick-off after confirmation Messi had been hit with a four-match ban following a ruling from disciplinary chiefs at world governing body FIFA in Zurich.

The Barcelona superstar was stunned after being suspended for four of Argentina’s five remaining World Cup qualification matches for swearing at an official in a game against Chile last week.

Messi’s suspension left Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza forced to make a hasty reshuffle to his starting line-up, bringing in Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa in attack while leaving Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero on the bench.

But Argentina, clearly struggling in the thin air of La Paz, which is 3,600 metres (11,800 feet) above sea level, were well beaten at the Estadio Hernando Siles.

Bolivia, desperate for three points, tore into Argentina from the opening whistle, spending long periods camped around their opponents area.

Juan Carlos Arce opened the scoring for Bolivia on 31 minutes, heading in Pablo Escobar’s inviting cross before Marcelo Martins doubled the home side’s lead early the second half.

The defeat leaves Argentina languishing just outside the automatic qualifying places following results elsewhere Tuesday.

Chile moved up to fourth place with a 3-1 win over Venezuela in Santiago, Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez opening the scoring with a stunning early free-kick. Esteban Paredes scored twice for Chile to give the host a 3-1 lead before Salomon Rondon pulled a goal back for Venezuela.

In Quito, Real Madrid star James Rodriguez scored one goal and set up another for Juan Cuadrado as Colombia beat Ecuador 2-0.