No Lionel Messi, no problem for Argentina in the rugged altitude of La Paz.
With the superstar rested for the match, not amongst the 18-man squad, the defending World Cup champions eased to a 2-0 victory over Bolivia on the road, in one of the most unique and difficult venues across CONMEBOL.
Enzo Fernandez was spectacular across the first half, and grabbed the opening goal in the process, while Nicolas Tagliafico doubled the lead just before the break.
That was all Argentina needed, but they were given a further boost as Ricardo Fernandez produced an ugly challenge on Cristian Romero to earn a sending off and leave Bolivia a man down for the entirety of the second half.
After the break, with a two-goal lead and a man advantage, Argentina completely snuffed the life out of the match in the second half, resting in possession and leaving both sides content to keep the match right where it was. Bolivia were poor throughout, as the fans rained down boos upon their nation’s side as they put simple passes out of play under no pressure.
Eventually, Nico Gonzalez would put the game away with Argentina’s third, and the visitors flew home with all three points. With Messi sitting out, Alejandro Garnacho found a way onto the pitch in the final minutes, which notably cap-tied him to the Albiceleste, still holding eligibility for Spain until his appearance in La Paz.
The Sporting News followed the Bolivia vs Argentina match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happened.
Bolivia vs Argentina final score
R. Fernandez (37′)
E. Fernandez (31′),Tagliafico (43′),N. Gonzalez (82′)
Bolivia (4-4-2, right to left): 23. Viscarra (GK) — 21. Sagredo (Algaranaz, 73′), 2. Quinteros, 5. Jusino (Haquin, 46′), 17. R. Fernandez (sent off, 37′) — 8. Ibanez, 15. Villamil (Villarroel, 26′), 19. Ursino (H. Cuellar, 46′), 13. Arrascaita (Saucedo, 62′) — 18. Abrego, 9. M. Moreno.
Argentina (4-3-3, right to left): 23. E. Martinez (GK) — 21. Molina, 13. Romero, 19. L. Martinez, 3. Tagliafico — 7. De Paul (Palacios, 76′), 8. E. Fernandez (Correa, 87′), 20. Mac Allister — 11. Di Maria, 9. J. Alvarez, 15. N. Gonzalez (Garnacho, 85′).
Bolivia vs Argentina live updates, highlights, commentary
FULLTIME: Bolivia 0-3 Argentina
Argentina did all the glamorous work in the first half, and then squeezed the life out of their opponents after the break. Nico Gonzalez put it away late with the game’s final goal, but the second half was all about possessional dominance and securing control.
With Lionel Messi relegated to a spectator, Angel Di Maria and Enzo Fernandez were the stars for Argentina, picking up a gritty win in a tough road environment. Six points out of six to begin 2026 World Cup qualifying for the defending FIFA champions!
2 – Di María 🇦🇷 volvió a asistir por duplicado en un partido de Eliminatorias por primera vez desde octubre de 2012, cuando dio dos pases gol ante Uruguay. Decisivo. pic.twitter.com/RuUurT7ONm
— OptaJavier (@OptaJavier) September 12, 2023
Bolivia vs Argentina: Second Half
87th min: Angel Correa, oddly wearing Lionel Messi’s No. 10, enters for Enzo Fernandez.
85th min: Also coming onto the pitch for Argentina is Alejandro Garnacho, who notably becomes cap-tied to Argentina, no longer able to switch allegiances to Spain.
A yellow card is shown to Carlos Alagaranaz for a foul, with the booking shown while the Bolivia man was on the turf having pulverized Leandro Paredes but taking the worst of the collision and ending up with a bleeding lip.
82nd min: GOAL! ARGENTINA! The third arrives, as Nico Gonzalez cleans up a messy final third foray and curls one past Guillermo Viscarra’s near post. It came after Julian Alvarez had an opportunity but was dispossessed, with the ball falling to Ezequiel Palacios before Gonzalez finished it off.
With Argentina snuffing the life out of the game, and Bolivia content to oblige, there’s been no need for Lionel Scaloni to make changes, but he finally dips into his bench for tactical changes, as he brings on Leandro Paredes and Lautaro Martinez with just a few ticks left.
— Selección Argentina in English (@AFASeleccionEN) September 12, 2023
76th min: Argentina are forced to make their first change, having yet to do so, as Ezequiel Palacios comes into midfield to replace Rodrigo de Paul, who appears to have a bloody nose.
72nd min: Chance, Argentina! Angel Di Maria has been in a creator role all match, but he tries to pick one out for himself as he dances around two defenders and rifles a low drive from distance, but Guillermo Viscarra gets down to make the stop, as he’s done throughout this match.
Carmelo Algaranaz enters for Bolivia to replace Jose Sagredo, while Lionel Scaloni has yet to make a single substitution.
70th min: Chance, Argentina! Julian Alvarez hits the post! The Man City striker goes across the face of goal with a shot which catches Guillermo Viscarra late to react, but he clips it off the woodwork. It would have been a third assist for Angel Di Maria had it found the back of the net.
Just prior to the effort, Jairo Quinteros was booked for clipping Enzo Fernandez late. The fouls and cards continue to pile up for the hosts, who are already down a man.
64th min: Fans across Estadio Hernando Silas rain boos down upon Jairo Quinteros who plays a monumentally simple pass straight out of play. Sums it up for Bolivia today. Just don’t have it.
Incredibly Fernando Saucedo does the same thing on the opposite touchline minutes later, and the boos intensify. Brutal.
61st min: Argentina have completely and utterly deflated this match with their possessional dominance. It feels like nothing has happened this half, because mostly…nothing has happened. Bolivia are showing signs of frustration, as are the fans. They can’t get a sniff of the ball as the visitors simply run them around.
Bolivia make another change, bringing on Fernando Saucedo to replace Jaime Arrascaita.
55th min: Hector Cuellar fouls Alexis Mac Allister in midfield, and you’d have to imagine at some point this referee will have to start booking Bolivia players for their cynicism.
51st min: Chance, Argentina! Rodrigo de Paul rifles a shot through the legs of a defender, but it’s kept out by Guillermo Viscarra who gets down low to his right and pushes the effort out of harm’s way. A solid save.
46th min: Straight off the kickoff, substitute Hector Cuellar has felled Rodrigo de Paul, moments after Julian Alvarez was also fouled. Both came in the first minute of the second half, which causes the referee to have a chat with Bolivia captain Marcelo Moreno about persistent fouling.
Kickoff: The match is back under way at Estadio Hernando Silas and the hosts have made a pair of changes. Luis Haquin enters for Adrian Jusino along the back line, while Hector Cuellar enters for Luciano Ursino in midfield.
Bolivia have an enormous task on their hands, and it feels too tall a mountain to climb. It’s a bit chilly in La Paz, as Lionel Messi dons a jacket on the touchline.
Lionel Messi will fly back to Miami from Bolivia while the Argentina team will fly back to Buenos Aires. Via TyC Sports. pic.twitter.com/wthQxzwPFj
— Mundo Albiceleste ⭐🌟⭐🇦🇷 (@MundoAlbicelest) September 12, 2023
HALFTIME: Bolivia 0-2 Argentina
Jeers rain down in La Paz as hosts Bolivia were soundly beaten across the first 45 minutes.
The defending World Cup champions, without rested superstar Lionel Messi, have been brilliant. They were poor for the first five minutes, but after stamping their authority on the match, they never looked back.
Enzo Fernandez was denied an early opener by a great save, but found his goal later in the half, and Nicolas Tagliafico added a second. It got worse for Bolivia as they went a man down, as a terrible tackle by an already booked Roberto Fernandez saw him sent to the showers, first for a second yellow, which was then changed to a straight red on VAR review.
Argentina’s Fernandez has been the best player on the pitch, a stark improvement from his poor showing against Ecuador on Thursday. Despite their lead, the Argentina players, deployed in the absurd La Paz elevation, are completely and utterly out of breath as they head into the tunnel.
Enzo Fernandez was the 2nd worst player on the pitch in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Ecuador on Thursday, with only his Chelsea teammate Moises Caicedo struggling more.Today, thru 45 mins Enzo’s the best player by far. Silky smooth all over the field. pic.twitter.com/tcWCHIjMFL
— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) September 12, 2023
Bolivia vs Argentina: First Half
45+1 min: Oh my, Enzo Fernandez produces a world-class vertical through-ball to a streaking Julian Alvarez, but the Manchester City forward’s first touch lets him down and the chance evaporates. What a performance by Enzo so far today!
42nd min: GOAL! ARGENTINA! Nicolas Tagliafico scores his first international goal on his 51st cap! It’s a “header” off a set-piece, which comes from Angel Di Maria centrally that clips off Tagliafico’s shoulder and pops up and over Guillermo Viscarra.
¡Nico Tagliafico marcó el segundooooooo! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0oVs6DMH74
— AFA Play (@afa_play) September 12, 2023
37th min: RED CARD, BOLIVIA! The hosts are down to 10 men as Roberto Fernandez picks up his second yellow card! It’s well-earned, as he is late to a 50/50 ball, and goes over the ball to stamp on the leg of Cristian Romero.
Interestingly, the referee is going to have a look at the VAR monitor, for what I assume can only be to potentially issue a straight red card as opposed to a second yellow. It won’t matter for the game, but will for suspension purposes. It’s a very bad tackle, and this could be overturned.
Indeed it is, so the second yellow is changed to a straight red card for Roberto Fernandez of Bolivia!
Thanks to God Romero is completely fine after this. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/nhfNSNHIIW
— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) September 12, 2023
31st min: GOAL! ARGENTINA! Enzo Fernandez opens the scoring! Angel Di Maria delivers an utterly spectacular assist from the right edge of the penalty area, and the Chelsea midfielder bundles it home with an awkward but effective finish. A third international goal for Fernandez!
𝗟𝗘𝗧 𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗠 𝗖𝗢𝗢𝗞! 🤩#ArgentinaNTpic.twitter.com/XDPJ1ZZ0Pn
— Selección Argentina in English (@AFASeleccionEN) September 12, 2023
29th min: Emiliano Martinez stands tall to his first real test, as Luciano Ursino fires on frame but it’s stopped low.
Moments later, both teams are up in arms with the referee. First, Victor Abrego feels he was felled without a whistle, and then he gets up and angrily chops down Nicolas Otamendi. Abrego is called for the foul, and Argentina feel there should be a yellow card. Testy.
24th min: Now Gabriel Villamil has been booked for a late, trailing arm to the face of Alexis Mac Allister, who is down and needs treatment. Didn’t look too bad, hard to tell what exactly Mac Allister is struggling with, but he takes his time getting back to his feet.
Bolivia is making an early substitution, as Moises Villarroel comes on to replace Villamil after his early booking. At first it seems a harsh call by head coach Gustavo Costas, but Villamil heads straight down the tunnel so maybe there’s an injury concern here.
21st min: Chance, Argentina! Julian Alvarez is the latest visitor to be thwarted by Guillermo Viscara! It’s another good save by the Bolivia goalkeeper who holds firm at his near post on the shot from a tight angle. It comes after Adrian Jusino is caught in possession in his own defensive third, and not for the first time either.
17th min: Angel Di Maria is fouled again, and this time Jaime Arrascaita who gets a talking to from the official, but no yellow card shown this time. The deep delivery is dealt with by Bolivia.
16th min: Roberto Fernandez picks up the game’s first booking as he pulls Angel Di Maria back by his shirt.
12th min: Chance, Argentina! WHAT A SAVE FROM GULLERMO VISCARA! He goes full stretch to keep out a fabulous effort from Enzo Fernandez! An utterly incredible leaping stop to best what was a truly wonderful strike by the Chelsea man that was destined for the top-left corner!
Argentina did not start the match well but they’ve built themselves into the clear ascendency now.
11th min: Chance, Argentina! Rodrigo de Paul flashes a shot just wide left! That’s a gift of a chance on a bad Bolivia giveaway won by Nico Gonzalez, and de Paul has a big opening to have a go, but delivers a poor effort as he slips on the Estadio Hernando Silas pitch.
10th min: Argentina have their first attacking set-piece chance after Julian Alvarez is fouled, and the referee gives Bolivia captain Marcelo Moreno a talking to amidst a very long stoppage to set up the free-kick. It’s from a central position very deep, and it’s delivered for Nicolas Otamendi, but the Benfica defender can’t get his head to the ball.
7th min: Argentina have begun this match poorly, and Bolivia are gaining momentum with the press. Angel Di Maria is dispossessed to begin a Bolivia break, and they earn a corner. It’s played short, but give it away in the process, wasting the chance.
Kickoff: This match is under way at 11,500 ft. of elevation in La Paz!
Bolivia vs Argentina: Pre-match commentary, analysis, stats, and more
15 mins to kickoff: One player who could desperately use a positive performance is Enzo Fernandez. The Chelsea man has had a tough start to life in London, and was also extremely poor against Ecuador on Thursday. He had bad giveaways and did not do enough to help build the side forward.
Thankfully for Enzo, his Chelsea teammate Moises Caicedo was even worse, and took the brunt of the headlines, giving Fernandez another chance to log a good performance and kick-start his season for club and country. Can he handle the La Paz elevation?
Enzo Fernandez x Moises Caicedo 🔥 pic.twitter.com/qDxlgYFWNZ
— CFC Pics (@Mohxmmad) September 8, 2023
30 mins to kickoff: Bolivia has made a switch to a 4-4-2, after the 5-4-1 was picked apart by Brazil in their 2026 World Cup qualifying opener. Veteran forward Marcelo Moreno has been handed a striker partner for the game, with Victor Abrego entering play.
45 mins to kickoff: In a super weird move, Argentina have handed Angel Correa the No. 10 shirt that is usually worn by Lionel Messi, with the latter not named in the 18-man squad. That feels…wrong.
Ángel Correa will wear the number 10 shirt for Argentina. Via @gastonedul. pic.twitter.com/WaLlH3zT16
— Mundo Albiceleste ⭐🌟⭐🇦🇷 (@MundoAlbicelest) September 12, 2023
1 hour to kickoff: As has been heavily reported, Lionel Messi does not start, with Argentina instead deploying a front three of Julian Alvarez, Angel Di Maria, and Nico Gonzalez. The captain’s armband will be handed to Di Maria in Messi’s absence.
Otherwise, Lionel Scaloni deploys the same lineup that topped Ecuador on Thursday. Messi, who does not appear in the 18-man squad at all, is given a full 90 minutes rest in what is a match against an inferior opponent with very little at stake.
Leo Messi no va al banco de suplentes.
— Gastón Edul (@gastonedul) September 12, 2023
1 hour 15 mins to kick: Bolivia are playing at home, and Messi will reportedly not start, but simply the presence of the MVP can have quite the influence on a visiting atmosphere.
Bolivia has gone berserk for Messi Mania, as fans streamed through Manuel Marquez de Leon International to catch a glimpse of the team arriving, and a mural popping up in downtown La Paz featuring Messi and serving as a tribute to the friendship between the national teams.
A fan was even filmed with a sign that read “Leo, today that I can see you, I feel blessed.” The fan was interviewed by Argentine media, and he told the reporter, “I love my team a lot, but I’m going to support Messi and Argentina. Seeing him happy makes me happy.”
Bolivia honors Messi with this new mural. pic.twitter.com/sC8Twy4Bwo
— FCB Albiceleste (@FCBAlbiceleste) September 11, 2023
1 hour 30 mins to kick: Reports have been simmering all day that Lionel Messi will not start today’s game in La Paz, but that has seemingly been confirmed as the well-connected Gaston Edul reports Messi will indeed begin the game amongst the substitutes.
It is said that in his place, Angel Di Maria will serve as Argentina captain, meaning there is still just one spot out wide for either Alejandro Garnacho or Nico Gonzalez.
Confirmado: Leo Messi no va a ser titular contra Bolivia. pic.twitter.com/96RgbSg7wD
— Gastón Edul (@gastonedul) September 12, 2023
1 hour 45 mins to kick: Incredibly, while Alejandro Garnacho has been hailed as the next great Argentine winger for some time now, the 19-year-old Manchester United star has yet to be cap-tied to the nation. Garnacho was born in Madrid, Spain, and is therefore eligible to play for the Spanish national team. He has two caps for Argentina, but both appearances came in friendlies, and therefore he still could theoretically change sides.
While Garnacho has shown no indication that he wishes to defect, his continued lack of playing time has been baffling and could give him reason to reconsider. Last week, Nico Gonzalez was preferred to Garnacho, and had little effect before being hauled off in the second half for Angel Di Maria. Now, with reports that Di Maria will captain Argentina in the place of Lionel Messi, it means there is still just one spot between Garnacho and Gonzalez.
If Garnacho doesn’t play against Bolivia, it would be a real head-scratcher, and would leave Argentine fans on the edges of their seats until October when they could next tie him to the Albiceleste.
2 hours to kickoff: The altitude at La Paz has troubled even the best players in the world, and it is a big talking point every time Bolivia welcomes an opponent to their home fortress. Estadio Hernando Siles sits at an altitude of somewhere between 11,400 and 12,000 ft above sea level (reports vary regarding the exact number), which American fans will recognise as over twice the elevation of Denver’s aptly named “Mile High Stadium.”
Back in 2011, after being held to a 1-1 draw at this very venue, Lionel Messi called it “terrible to play here.” Argentina will hoe to finally cap-tie Alejandro Garnacho in this match (more on that in a bit), but TyC Sports reports that because it’s the 21-year-old’s first time playing here, they will watch his adaptation to the elevation and make a decision on his fitness from there.
A number of visiting teams routinely use oxygen masks to aid in their recovery and fitness, as well as to speed up their body’s acclimatisation to the unique conditions.
Here is Ángel Di María during a match in the altitude of La Paz, Bolivia (3,500 meters above sea levels, 11,482 feet) and Brazil players after their game at altitude. Argentina play a World Cup qualifier there on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/Cq6QxeGmrf
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) September 11, 2023
Bolivia vs Argentina lineups & team news
Bolivia is captained by 36-year-old forward Marcelo Moreno who plays for Colombian giants Independiente del Valle and has 102 caps to his name, the only player in the squad with over 55 international appearances. However, instead of being deployed on his own, he’s been partnered with Victor Abrego up front in a 4-4-2.
One player to watch off the bench for Bolivia is 19-year-old Miguelito who plays for Brazilian side Santos, where he’s been since joining their youth side at 14. The young playmaker has made his professional debut for the club but is still looking to break into the first-team squad as a regular option. He is teammates at the club and international level with fellow 19-year-old forward Enzo Monteiro who is also in the Bolivia squad for this match.
Also potentially making an impact is 22-year-old winger Jaume Cuellar who plays for Barca B in Spain, on loan from third-tier club Lugo.
Bolivia projected starting lineup (4-4-2): Viscarra (GK) — Sagredo, Quinteros, Jusino, R. Fernandez — Ibanez, Villamil, Ursino, Arrascaita — Abrego, Moreno.
Bolivia subs (12): Lampe (GK), Uraezana (GK), M. Suarez, Haquin, H. Cuellar, Medina, Villarroel, Terceros, Saucedo, J. Martinez, J. Cuellar, Algaranez.
There were concerns after head coach Scaloni indicated Lionel Messi was substituted late in the match on Thursday due to injury, but TyC reported that studies did not reveal a muscle issue. Messi has travelled with the team to Bolivia but will not start, and there are further reports that he will not even appear off the bench.
Nico Gonzalez started on the left wing in the the win over Ecuador, and while he did not provide much influence in the attacking third, he has apparently done enough to be deployed again. In this match against a far inferior opponent, it’s shocking that Alejandro Garnacho has not been given a chance to shine, as the Manchester United youngster is in good club form and is technically not cap-tied yet, still eligible to switch to Spain, his country of birth.
Angel Di Maria will captain Argentina in Messi’s stead, while Julian Alvarez gets the nod up front in place of Lautaro Martinez. Papu Gomez and Lisandro Martinez are out injured.
Argentina projected starting lineup (4-3-3): E. Martinez (GK) — Molina, Romero, L. Martinez, Tagliafico — De Paul, E. Fernandez, Mac Allister — Di Maria, J. Alvarez, N. Gonzalez.
Argentina subs (12): Armani (GK), Musso (GK), Foyth, Montiel, Pazzella, Paredes, Palacios, Medina, G. Rodriguez, Correa, Garnacho, La. Martinez.
🏆 #Eliminatorias📋 ¡Once inicial confirmado! ⚽Así formará @Argentina 🇦🇷 para el encuentro ante #Bolivia 🇧🇴 pic.twitter.com/p6IGOYiSdY
— 🇦🇷 Selección Argentina ⭐⭐⭐ (@Argentina) September 12, 2023
How to watch Bolivia vs Argentina
Individual nations within CONMEBOL will have broadcast agreements in place with domestic operators, with TyC Sports covering this fixture in Argentina.
This match will not be available as things stand for most of the territories listed above. However, fans in select regions of the world can stream the game live on FIFA+, including in USA, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand.
MORE: Lionel Messi stats 2023/24
Bolivia vs Argentina betting odds & lines
While Brazil were installed as enormous favourites last week against Bolivia – and delivered in a dominating 5-1 victory – the same respect has not been shown by bookmakers to Argentina.
There are a few factors at play here. Bolivia play far better in their fortress at La Paz, Argentina play a far more defensive-minded style than Brazil and Messi’s status is up in the air due to that slight injury. Put all those together, and this match has been tabbed as likely to feature far fewer goals than Friday’s game.
Both teamsto score Y / N
Over / Under2.5 goals
-118 / -120
-133 / -108
1.80 / 1.80
1.76 / 1.95
1.87 / 1.89
1.81 / 2.00