Argentina Too Strong for Bolivia, Even without Messi

LA PAZ — Argentina rested captain Lionel Messi, but they still made light work of Bolivia as they won 3-0 to claim their second victory of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday. Angel Di Maria took over as Messi’s replacement and shone, providing two assists before halftime to help Argentina maintain their winning start to the South American campaign.

The defending champions were expected to struggle in the high altitude of La Paz, and their climb appeared even steeper without Messi. Still, coach Lionel Scaloni’s team responded with a resounding win that left the hosts shell-shocked.

Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Tagliafico, and Nico Gonzalez scored as the Argentines beat a 10-man Bolivia in a gritty victory, giving them six points to begin their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Messi watched from the bench as Argentina dominated possession, suffocating the life out of their opponents who struggled in attack and were frequently frustrated by simple passes being put out of play. The Argentines went ahead in the 31st minute as Di Maria’s inch-perfect low cross was met with a thumping finish by Fernandez. Di Maria added a second just before the break, sending a free kick into the box for Tagliafico to head in.

The former Real Madrid winger was involved again in the 74th minute, sending a cross from the right for Nicolas Gonzales to head home. The Argentines closed the game with their third goal as Gonzales met another Di Maria corner with a header.

Despite being reduced to 10 men after Roberto Fernandez was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Cristian Romero, the visitors continued to press and put the hosts under pressure. Guillermo Viscara thwarted a late effort from Julian Alvarez as the hosts looked to get a consolation.

Afterward, the players lined up before a large banner with the message “For all the love of soccer.” The fans in the Hernando Siles stadium were more than happy to be treated to such a sight as they celebrated the win. Argentina fly home with a perfect two wins from two in the opening rounds of World Cup qualifying and are top of Group B. The ten CONMEBOL teams will play each other twice in a round-robin format before the top six qualify for the finals. The bottom two will enter an inter-confederation play-off. The qualifying competition will run from September 2023 to September 2025, with games played during every international break. It is the first time Argentina has started the group stage with a pair of victories.

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