By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Argentina have once again proven how dependent they are on captain and 5-time Balon d’or winner Lionel Messi, after they lost to Bolivia following Messi’s suspension.
Lionel Messi received a four-match ban hours before kick-off, and Argentina went on to lose 2-0 in Bolivia to endanger their qualification chances for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Juan Carlos Arce put the home side ahead with a first-half header and Marcelo Martins added a second eight minutes after the break. Argentina have not missed a World Cup finals since 1970 but are fifth in the South American qualification table. The first four qualify directly, with the fifth entering the play-offs to try and secure qualification.
Messi was banned for insulting an assistant referee in Argentina’s qualifier against Chile last week which they won 1-0, thanks to a Messi penalty. The Barcelona forward was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs after approaching the official at the end of the win in Buenos Aires.
Argentina will be without their captain for three of their final four qualifiers and if Tuesday’s performance is any guide he will be sorely missed. This might jeopardise Argentina’s chances of qualifying as they are also without regulars Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain and Lucas Biglia.