Argentina is set to take on fellow South Americans Bolivia in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualification fixture at 8pm later today at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia.
La Albiceleste are cruising after the 2022 FIFA World Cup victory in Qatar with the South Americans hoping to defend their prestigious trophy when the showpiece comes to America in 2026.
Bolivia’s Altitude Challenge
One of the main concerns for countries going to Bolivia has been the unfavorable altitude in the country; Estadio Hernando Siles, where Bolivia will play their home games sits at an altitude of 3,600m (11,800 ft) above sea level. The thin air makes it difficult to breath and even worse for visiting countries who are not used to the condition.
This in turn has made it unwelcoming for visiting countries as they struggle to catch their breath. Brazilian star, Neymar Jr. had described the conditions at Estadio Hernando Siles as “inhumane” back in 2018 during a World Cup qualifying clash on an Instagram post.
Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) actively involved itself in the ‘high altitude football-controversy’ in May 2007 by placing a temporary ban on international matches at more than 2500m (8,200ft) with the International organization citing its main concern on players health and unfair advantage to acclimatised home teams. The organization later raised the 3,000m a month later after negative feedback against the initial ban.
The FIFA ruling meant that Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador were prevented from hosting FIFA World Cup qualifiers in their own capital.
FIFA later reviewed and revoked the ban in May 2008 after a letter of protest from CONMEBOL (governing body of South American Football).
Argentina’s Estadio Hernando Reyes Nightmare
Argentina won the Copa America in 2021, making the South American side hold the record for the most Copa America trophies (15) together with Uruguay. They are highly revered on the South American continent but the Argentines still dread playing at the Estadio Hernando Reyes.
April 1, 2009 was and continually remains the most gloomiest day in Argentine football history. La Albiceleste recorded their heaviest defeat ever at the hands of Bolivia, where the Maradona-coached Argentina team were annihilated by 6-1 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifier.
Prior to 2020, Argentina had not won in Bolivia since 2005 and despite La Albiceleste toppling La Verde in their previous 5 games with 4 victories and 1 defeat, the 6-1 demolishing of Argentina on April 1, 2009 will long live in the memory of Argentines and football lovers. Argentina may take courage from La Verde ending Brazil’s 11 game winning streak prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa in similar fashion as themselves.
Bolivia, on the other hand, beat Brazil 2-1 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to put an end to Brazil’s pre tournament form.
Bolivia have notable wins on the South American continent with Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela and Argentina being notable victims of the triumphs.
Argentina will be looking to bury the hatchet on their nightmares at the Estadio Hernando Reyes along with their past lackluster displays in Bolivia as the World Champions seek to assert themselves on the Andean side.
Story by : Andrews Sefa Bamfo | univers.ug.edu.gh