Messi not a marked man: Bolivia coach

No special tactics to keep Argentinian genius at bay, despite Baldivieso's lack of firepower

CORDOBA • Bolivia will resist the temptation to man-mark Barcelona forward Lionel Messi when they visit Argentina for their 2018 World Cup qualifier this morning (Singapore time).

"There won't be special marking on Messi," said coach Julio Cesar Baldivieso, who has been under fire since Bolivia lost 2-3 to Colombia on Tuesday.

"Football is played 11 against 11 and we are a team," he told reporters. "To play against the best in the world has to be a motivation for the players."

Bolivia have a mostly home-based squad containing four exiles who play their club football in the United States, Israel, Kuwait and Sweden.

Argentina, World Cup runners-up in 2014, beat them 5-0 and 7-0 in two friendlies last year.

The home team must select a new centre-back partnership with Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton suspended after the pair were booked during Thursday's 2-1 victory against Chile.

City's Martin Demichelis, who has hinted that he is ready to retire from international duty, looks set to play alongside Javier Pinola of Rosario Central, who won his only cap nine years ago.

"As a matter of humility and because I am realistic (about) the situation, I have to be aware that it may be my last game," Demichelis said.

"I have been going 351/2 years and do not know how many more chances I will be able to provide. I am proud to remain at my age, that they feel I can contribute.

"The truth is that for me, the next World Cup is far for my body and my mind. All this makes me say that this may be my last game. And if it is, my last will be the best place for me, which is Cordoba, where I played a few times."

The state of the pitch at Cordoba's Mario Kempes Stadium has been criticised in the Argentinian media after damage was caused by two rock concerts held there earlier this month.

"We'll practise at another venue this evening to settle on our team for tomorrow," said Baldivieso, a member of the last Bolivia side to reach the Finals in the United States in 1994.

The defeat by Colombia was Bolivia's second in three home qualifiers at the Hernando Siles venue in La Paz as they failed to benefit from the rarefied air at high altitude that has traditionally helped them overcome stronger rivals.

Bolivia are second from bottom in the 10-nation South American group with three points from five matches, 10 adrift of leaders Ecuador and five behind fifth-placed Argentina.

The top four after 18 games qualify for the Finals while the fifth team go into an intercontinental play-off.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'MESSI NOT A MARKED MAN: BOLIVIA COACH'. Print Edition | Subscribe