Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni explained why Lionel Messi wasn't included in the matchday squad to face Bolivia at the Estadio Hernando Siles yesterday (September 12).
Lionel Messi was the hero for La Albiceleste once again against Ecuador on September 7, scoring a stunning free-kick to secure an important three points. But the 36-year-old was substituted towards the end of the game due to fatigue.
Despite claiming he felt alright and it was nothing serious, rumors circulated yesterday, claiming that Messi would not be featuring against Bolivia. In addition to his fatigue and heavy workload, the conditions in La Paz were far from ideal due to the high altitudes, making it harder to breathe for the players.
This came to fruition ahead of kickoff as Lionel Messi wasn't named in the squad. Angel Di Maria started ahead of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.
Argentina stormed to a 3-0 away win with Enzo Fernandez (31'), Nicolas Tagliafico (42'), and Nicolas Gonzalez (83') getting on the scoresheet. Scaloni credited his team for winning in adverse conditions without the presence of arguably the best player in the world.
He said (via Mundo Albiceleste):
“We are happy. The formula are the players that played well. There is a group which plays football very well. Without them it would be impossible. It is their merit. The main talk was that we play football, that it could be played. With the added difficulty, that the ball goes faster, the lack of air… If we were able to move the ball to the man and not to the space, we would be able to score a goal.”
He then explained why Lionel Messi failed to feature:
“Leo was not ready to play. He tried to recover yesterday but he didn’t feel comfortable and we didn’t risk it. It wasn’t important because there are important things coming.”
Argentina are currently second in the CONMEBOL standings with six points from two games. They have given themselves a good platform to build from in their bid to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Bolivia vs Argentina: Exploring the stats from World Cup qualifier to see how the Albiceleste performed without Lionel Messi
Argentina were able to secure an important 3-0 away win against Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier yesterday without the presence of Lionel Messi. Let's take a look at the stats to see how both teams performed.
Bolivia's Roberto Fernandez was sent off in the 39th minute, enabling Argentina to take control of the game. The latter had 60% of the ball, completing 482 passes with an accuracy of 81%. In contrast, the home team had 40% of the ball, completing 327 passes with an accuracy of 73%.
Argentina were able to maintain their attacking threat without Lionel Messi, registering 15 shots, with eight being on target. On the other hand, Bolivia could only muster four, with just two being on target.