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Oct 13 (Reuters) – Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni described Bolivia as “one of the best teams in the world” when they play at the punishing altitude of La Paz.
Bolivia were thrashed 5-0 in Brazil on Friday but they rested some players in anticipation of facing Argentina on Tuesday in another South American World Cup qualifier and Scaloni said his team – who are unbeaten since the 2018 Copa America – will need to be at their best to play at 3,640 meters above sea level.
“Playing here is completely different from playing at sea level, it’s very difficult here,” Scaloni said ahead of the game.
Bolivia at home “are one of the best teams in the world,” he added.
The Bolivians have qualified for the World Cup finals only once, in 1994, and they finished second last in the 10-team South American group last time around.
However, the thin air of La Paz has felled many visitors and Argentina have not won in Bolivia since 2005.
The twice world champions were beaten 2-0 in Bolivia in 2017 and were hammered 6-1 by the Andean side in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, also at altitude.
“We need our players to be 100 %, if any of them are not then we’ll talk to them and take the best decision for team,” said Scaloni, who brought his team a couple of days early to try and acclimatise.
Argentina beat Ecuador 1-0 last week, one of four teams to record a win in the opening round of matches. (Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo in Buenos Aires; Writing by Andrew Downie in London, Editing by Pritha Sarkar)