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Coping with high altitude

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Tim Vickery | 08:10 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009

Outside South America there is little recognition of the difficulties of the continent's World Cup qualification campaign.

Carlos Alberto Parreira and Luiz Felipe Scolari are agreed - the pair coached Brazil to World Cup triumph in 1994 and 2002 respectively, and came to the same conclusion.

Winning the competition was relatively straightforward. The hard part was qualification.

Both of their teams lost in Bolivia.

This week, it was Argentina's turn - they were thrashed 6-1 in La Paz.

The current qualification campaign has featured 31 home wins to 10 away - this ratio of 3:1 is normal in South America - and highlights the enormous difficulty of playing away from home.

There are long and arduous journeys to undertake, at the end of which the visiting team is surrounded by an intimidating atmosphere.

There are huge differences of climate and conditions - and, of course, there is the factor of altitude.

At some 2,800 metres above sea level, Quito, Ecuador's base, is difficult.

Wayward finishing, superb goalkeeping and some luck meant that Brazil came back from Quito with a 1-1 draw last Sunday. But on the balance of play Ecuador could easily have won by the same 6-1 margin by which Bolivia inflicted the first defeat on Diego Maradona's Argentina.

Argentina's players struggle against Bolivia

At 3,600 metres above sea level, La Paz is the venue that everyone dreads.

There is no telling exactly how the unacclimatised player will react - genetic factors seem to determine that some feel the effects more than others. But as a general rule, it is reckoned that without time to acclimatise players lose over 30% of their athletic capacity.

The lungs struggle and they can't find enough oxygen to move freely over the pitch.

Given three weeks anyone can acclimatise. But in the modern calendar no-one has this time.

It is thought that the third day is when the effects are felt most.

So what nearly everyone does - as Maradona's team did on Wednesday - is move up to altitude just a few hours before the game. In this way the effects of extreme altitude are minimised.

This might make medical sense. But to my mind it makes little psychological or technical sense.

In the minds of the players it builds the problem into the size of a monster, and it gives no time for them to make an adaptation to conditions, how to change their game in response to the lack of oxygen, and to the fact that the ball flies far quicker through the rarefied air.

Doing it this way is also a crime against the goalkeeper, who is more exposed than anyone else by the rapid trajectory of the ball.

It is almost impossible to do what Maradona's Argentina tried to do - roll up and just try to play their normal game.

This is especially true against a Bolivia side that have found some form. They are not going to qualify, and their main objective at this stage of the campaign is to do well in front of their own public, especially against Brazil and Argentina.

Even before the Argentina game kicked off the Bolivian strike duo of Joaquin Botero and Marcelo Martins (known as Moreno in Brazil, where he played for a while) were the top scorers of the entire campaign.

The pair, plus some other key players, didn't even travel to Colombia for Saturday's match. Bolivia sent out a side searching for a 0-0 draw (they lost 2-0) while keeping their gunpowder fresh for Argentina.

So the Bolivia game is a one -off, as I suggested in my blog at the start of the week.

I wrote then that the extreme conditions meant that we would learn nothing about Maradona's Argentina from this game. On reflection, I'm not sure that is entirely correct.

There are certain steps that teams visiting altitude need to take.

Diego Maradona

The idea is to run as little as possible, so the team must stay compact, giving the man on the ball plenty of options for a pass.

They must not defend too deep - it stretches out the team and makes it easy for the home side to shoot from range - very dangerous at altitude.

Against Ecuador, altitude exposed Brazil's deficiencies.

"Brazil had almost no possession," wrote 1970 great Tostao, "because, literally, there was no midfield. Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo (the central midfield duo) played like centre backs."

So Brazil were unable to take the heat out of the game - while Argentina were over-run from the first because of their defensive weaknesses.

Martin Demichelis and Gabriel Heinze are too slow a pairing in the heart of defence. And, as slow centre backs usually do, they dropped deep to give themselves time - and opened up the field for the rampant Bolivians.

This is an area of the team that Maradona will need to look at - with Juan Forlin of Boca Juniors a promising defender who might well be worth a look.

Maradona said that he felt all the Bolivia goals like knife wounds in his heart.

They should heal, but an awareness is growing that a bigger axe could swing - the one that stops Argentina going to the World Cup.

They currently lie fourth, the last of the automatic qualifying slots.

Leaders Paraguay have a foot in South Africa.

Brazil and Chile, second and third respectively, have easier run ins than Argentina.

Lurking just two points behind in fifth, the play-off slot, are old rivals Uruguay - Argentina's final opponents in October's last round, which could be very interesting indeed.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    informed blog as usual. great read, and an extra one this week too!

  • Comment number 2.

    How do the press react to a score line like that in Argentina? Imagine the headlines in England if we lost like that, even allowing for the altitude.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great blog as always Tim. Love the up all night chat as well. Where else can we hear your ruminations on South American Football?

    As for the altitude debate - how many of the Bolivian National team live and play at altitude all the time? It can't be many, surely the good ones play in Mexico or Brazil, so my point is that surely the acclimatisation issue is the same for all involved. Or are we saying there is some sort of genetic abnormality in Bolivians that make them supermen up high - unlikely I'm sure.

  • Comment number 4.

    Another great read Tim.
    Whilst altitude affects the South American game quite often, it is rarely considered a factor elsewhere. Can you think of anywhere except the South American continent where factors such as altitude can affect a teams playing style in such a way?

    Also, it is not very often that European teams travel to Bolivia or Columbia to play. Is this because of the difficulty adjusting to the different climate or are there other reasons?

  • Comment number 5.

    Good read Tim. Something that the European teams need to consider is the altitude for the 4 World Cup stadiums around the Joburg region. Joburg is not quite 3600 meters like La Paz but 1700 meters should not be sniffed at...... Ignore this at your peril and I can see some teams coming unstuck with this. Would highly encourage the FA to situate the England camp in this region and not at the coast as has been intimated. Sort it Fabio !

  • Comment number 6.

    Great read - 1st time comment.

    Has anyone done any comparisons with the games the Denver Bronco's play in the NFL - I seem to recall Denver is approx 5300 ft above sea level so the impact on visiting players must be similar to Quito & La Paz - unless the American football system of seperate squads negates some of this effect due to the relatively short time players are on the pitch at any one time (and the frequent TV breaks). Might be interesting to know the views of the visiting teams as well and how they train to cope with the change in altitude.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog Tim, informative as ever.
    Picking up on what post 3 is saying... Surely the Bolivian internationals don't arrive 3 weeks before the game in time to prepare? how do they acclimatise?

  • Comment number 8.

    hey Tim,

    what other alternatives does argentina have for Zanetti & papa?

  • Comment number 9.

    #3 I'm not sure "genetic abnormality" would be the phrase but I *think* that those born and probably raised at higher altitudes do have a predisposition to producing more oxygen bearing red blood cells than those born and raised say at sea level. Certainly about ten years ago many of the major cycling teams used Colombians for the "mountain stages" simply because they coped much better even though they were now living and working in Europe.

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim,

    Did any players perform at all or did they all look off the pace? I don't know how Heinze gets a game at Real Madrid and Argentina, he had one great season at Man Utd then after his injury he's not look anywhere near his best.

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 11.

    Great article Tim...I have been looking forward to this but unfortunatley not too impressed with your opinion here. when Brazil came out with a draw at Quito, you faulted Gilberto Silva, Philip Melo and slated Ronaldinho that he has gone past his best, and you gave all praises to Maradona's Argentina team without considering the high altituide in Quito.. now they were trashed 6-1 by Bolivia in La Paz and you cannot fault anyone except the altituide...even Mascherano and Maradona conceeded that Bolivia were just a better team on the day, though altituide had a major effect but doesn't justify that goal margin....I am sure brazil would not be beaten in that margin when they visit La Paz.... let's be fair sometime without our judgement regardless of who is concerened

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim,

    Have Argentina or Brazil ever tried to reduce the altitude issue at away games through one off specialist selection policies? Pick a team physically suited to the altitude rather than basing it purely on quality.

    Clearly quality on the pitch or on paper can be overturned by such an extreme altitude as La Paz's, and the majority Argentina and Brazil's star players play at sea level in Spain, Italy, England or on the South American coast.

    Perhaps national teams when playing in La Paz should pick players who are taller, more athletically built or even players born/raised at altitude. A player who is taller or larger will have a bigger lung capacity than Messi or Tevez, Robinho or Pato. This weekend's game has shown that an Argentinian team that is weak on paper but physically fitter and astronger can't do much worse than a team of superstars.

    I've always been an advocate of protecting anomalies in the game such as Bolivia's altitude advantage, it's one of the many things that gives football it's variety and excitement. Perhaps if the big teams tried to play teams like Bolivia at their own game then they may have more success.



  • Comment number 13.

    Awesome blog as usual Tim!

    It's funny how Maradona backed Bolivia to stage the WC qualifiers in La Paz last year, but obviously he wasn't the gaffer of Argentina at that time!

    Will he change his opinion?

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Tim,

    Excellent blog as usual.

    Discussed this result with a colleague. He just about stated this game was a ''gimme'', due to the high altitude and lack of climatisation by the Argentine team.

    However, even an experienced team such as Diego's, should have been able to keep the scoreline to something not resembling a whitewash.

    Look forward to Monday's edition.

    All the best,
    MOP13
    www.manonplatform13.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 15.

    An extra blog this week! Thanks Tim. You suggest Juan Forlin as an option at centre-back, unfortunately I don't know much about domestic Argentinian football, but I was wondering whether you thought Ezequiel Garay, (currently being loaned back to Racing Santander after being bought by Real Madrid last summer) would be ready to step up? I haven't seen a lot of him this season (as I don't live in the UK at the moment and don't get regular access to La Liga but from what I've seen previously I've been impressed!

  • Comment number 16.

    I seem to remember being told when I visited La Paz that if you normally live at high altitude that you often suffer from a reverse altitude sickness. So you suffer from headaches, breathlessness and nausea when you come down to sea level. If that's the case then things even out a bit don't they?

  • Comment number 17.

    4 - bertrandbossingit: You make an excellent point re joburg. Travelling rugby teams often struggle with the altitude in both Jo'burg and Pretoria. As evidenced here the threat shouldn't be taken to lightly! Whilst it may be far more enjoyable sunning oneself on the beaches of Cape Town in your spare time, basing any team there could mean trouble.
    Interesting to see the effect on the type of football played in the final as both SF are played at sea level.

  • Comment number 18.

    Too much pace and not enough control - the curse of modern football. Skill has been subsumed to fitness and speed.

    I said on here, after the Venezuela win, that Argentina did not impress. They lacked the calm incisive possession which Riquelme gave them.

    And sure enough, they needed that "foot on the ball" in Bolivia.

    They'll need it in South Africa too.

    Should they get there.


  • Comment number 19.

    Tim why do Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana not participate in the International football?

  • Comment number 20.

    or does anyone else out there know for that matter?

  • Comment number 21.

    #19 'Tim why do Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana not participate in the International football?'

    They do, they field a combined team and play in Europe as the French National Team.

  • Comment number 22.

    Seriously though they do but they are part of CONACAF for some reason.

  • Comment number 23.

    #19 Suriname and Guyana play in the Conacaf qualifications. Both failed to progress to the final group. Do not know about French Guiana.

  • Comment number 24.

    i believe Surinam are a former dutch colony, so they dont play for France, French Guiana is a overseas department of french goverment hence not a country and can only for France. and the only player that has played for them recently is malouda whom like everyone else from there is born with a french passport.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Tim great blog as ever. Your blogs have increased my interest in South American football no end. Previously I only knew of South American football from the players plying there trade in Europe or of course when there was a major tournament.
    I would have to disagree with Carlos Alberto Parreira and Luiz Felipe Scolari and say it's not particulary hard to qualify from South Americas group if your Brazil or Argentina. For either not to qualify from the group would be a massive shock. It would take another 3 countries from that region to have an amazing campaign which I can't see happening over a run of what about 18 games? 1 or 2 maybe such as Columbia in the early nineties, Paraguay this year which enables them to qualify with Brazil and Argentina. Even if Brazil or Argentina finish 5th (which would be a huge shock) they have a playoff against 4th placed from the North, central America and Caribbean group. As the group consists of USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago it would be unthinkable.
    Qualification from European groups dosen't have the same altitude problem but as theres only one automatic qualifier in groups which have generally 3 European "powerhouses" i.e. group 1 Denmark, Portugul Sweden,group 5 Spain, Bosnia & Herz, Turkey, Belgium to name a few. Added to that it's over less games ( harder to keep a run going for a supposed lesser nation ) plus the inevitable away game to a Bulgaria, Croatia , Slovakia it becomes much harder IMO.
    Keep the blogs coming Tim !!!!


  • Comment number 26.

    It's true about the altitude but come on 6-1 is a hammering and is unheard of against a team of high quality like Argentina.

    I live in Argentina and I have to say lots of the Argentines say the altitude is an excuse, Ok it has it affects, but many people here doubt maradonas managing skills.

    He has been a manager here for Mandiyu and Racing and destroyed both teams. On another note ask any brazilian and 9 out of 10 will say the same thier teams problem is DUNGA! So though altitude was not a help to both teams, I believe also the manager had something to do with the result as well.

    Just for the record the last time Bolivia won 6-1 en La Paz was in 1996 against the mighty Venezuela!!

  • Comment number 27.

    It was asked above but i'd also like to know how many of the Bolivian team play their club football at a similar altitude.

    As for the world cup being played at altitude in South Africa, it could become a case of those teams teams that acclimatise quickest progressing further, as most teams that reach the finals will be inexperienced at playing within those conditions.

    I don't see much value in the debate that has previously been made regarding unfair advantage for home teams playing at altitude. It is simply part of the natural conditions of that nation and there is very little wrong in using that to their advantage.

  • Comment number 28.

    you say that qualification is difficult, but 50% of the teams qualify!
    also, aside from brasil and argentina, where is the quality? how many other south american sides have made the quarter finals of the world cup since 1986?

  • Comment number 29.

    Living in La Paz Ive seen Bolivia play several times and this is the best theyve played for years. Most Bolivians were as surprised by the result as everyone else; the match was a full house more to see Maradona, Messi etc than expectation that Bolivia might do something special! Part of the reason for the extra motivation may have been the offer by a Santa Cruz businessman of $1,000 per goal per player; despite the shock his accountant must have been in he still happily paid up on Bolivian TV yesterday!

    Many Bolivians are now asking why more of the first team werent taken to Colombia for the game the previous Saturday. Colombia were poor in their 2-0 win and if a stronger Bolivian team had gone they might have got something out of the match and still have an outside chance of the play off spot. There's also a fair bit of sympathy for Diego, his open support for the campaign for FIFA to revoke the ban on playing at altitude last year hasnt been forgotton by Bolivians.

    Re altitude many highland Bolivians (esp those of indigenous stock) have proportionately larger hearts and lungs than many people (I read somewhere around 10%) and also more oxygen carrying red blood cells. Those playing abroad need less time to acclimatise as a result. Going down to sea level doesnt have much affect altitude wise, but the heat and humidity at many sea level venues in S America definately does and helps level the playing field, so to speak!

    Will be intersting to see what happens with Argentina in the next round of qualifiers in June. Their defence needs plenty of work and not just in the centre, Bolivia ran them ragged down the flanks as well. If Diego gets that sorted and the next couple of results are good this match will be probably forgotton in Argentina as a one off; more poor performances and things could get interesting...... Any reason Tim why Cambiasso isnt in the team at the moment?

    Great blog as always, keep them coming Tim! As an ex pat in S America its always enjoyable to read something of quality about the region in English for a change!

    All the best!
    James

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim, you concentrated considerably on the altitude, almost blaming this for Argentina's defeat (other reports also blame the 'uneven' pitch, although both sides used the same surface!) while you only touched briefly on the main cause of the problem - a very unsure, slow, shaky defence with a truly terrible goalkeeper who was responsible for 3, if not 4 of the goals. Heinze was also dreadful, as he was at Old Trafford where every second tackle was a foul. I do get a little annoyed with these excuses when Argentina lose. I watched the game and the Bolivians obviously decided to attack, attack, and attack. Even at 1-1 they did not settle for a point but when in search of more goals. If more teams adopted this positive attitude they too would tear the Argentine defence to pieces because it is really second rate.
    Maradona? I wrote when he was appointed that it would be a disaster for Argentine football. It's not reached that stage yet, but the signs are there.

  • Comment number 31.

    Tim,

    Do you still not think these games at altitude make a total joke of the south american qualifiers?!

  • Comment number 32.

    #27 Most of them are used to it or have played at altitude at some point, all Bolivia's main cities except Santa Cruz and most of their best league teams play at over 2,500m (Potosi is even higher than La Paz at 4000m!). For matches in hot conditions they usually select a few more players from Santa Cruz which is in the tropical lowlands. The strike duo plays abroad, Martins with Shaktar Donetsk in the Ukraine and Botero I think in Mexico (where there is also some altitude issues though not as extreme as Bolivia)

  • Comment number 33.

    Good blog. So, people complain about having to go to La Paz and play but nobody mentions the reverse situation. As a person that was born in La Paz and moved to USA I can attest to the effect of exercising in an oxygen rich environment. When I started exercising I hyperventilated because my body was not used to so much oxygen.

  • Comment number 34.

    On the topic of Surinam it's a bit complicated.

    Their FA have a rule which says those who play in Holland can't play for the national team.

    Famous footballers of Surinam decent include Seedorf, Davids, Rijkaard.. possibly Gullit and Kluivert but would have to check.

  • Comment number 35.

    Not sure if i agree that qualifying for the world cup is harder than actually winning it, if that was the case then why do Brazil and Argentina ALWAYS qualify, even when they have poor runs and poor results, they still end up qualifying for the world cup.

  • Comment number 36.


    I can't speak for the Bolivians, but on the Ecuadorian side alot of the players ply their trade outside of Ecuador but there are still several who are based with the Quito/local teams, which i think gives the Ecs an advantage over visitors.

    I am all for the games being played at the local countries ground of choice to give them an advatage if needed. It used to be said in Ecuador in the early 90's that the likes of Brasil & Argentina used to slip somebody at the Ecuadorian federation a "brown envelope" (could of course just be the local rumour mill trying to explain constant failure) to play the games in Guayaquil at sea level as opposed to up in Quito. There is no doubt that since the Ecs got serious and started playing in Quito regularly, results have improved and if that's down to the altitude then long may it last.

    There has also been a swing in the power base of Ecuadorian football in the last 10 years or so. LDU of Quito are presently Libertadores Champions. The Ecuadorian league usually only has 2 coastal teams(this year more), with all the rest being based in Quito or the Andes region. When the 2 main coastal teams Barcelona and Emelec of Guayaquil had plenty of money, they were usually in the running(they occasionally used to keep several players based in Quito, in effect having a home team and an away team). Nowadays with money tight, or maybe better to say, more evenly spread around it is the altitude based teams that are controlling the league. The coastal guys have to play the majority of their away games at altitude and then return to the coast for home games; consequently never really acclimatising properly which i think is the reason for their relatively poor results.

  • Comment number 37.

    It must be massively frustrating for the Bolivians to know that no matter who they beat at home and by whatever scoreline, people are always going to say they only won thanks to the altitude.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi Tim: Could you offer some extended thoughts on South American qualifying. For example;

    (a) Brazil have qualified for every World Cup and, arguably, only have to be better than Ecuador and Colombia (currently 39th and 47th respectively in the FIFA rankings) to qualify. I’d accept that this could be viewed as being more difficult than qualifying through Europe (for Brazile at least), but I cannot accept that qualifying is harder than winning the World Cup.

    (b) Perhaps Brazil actually has an enviable advantage during qualifying. Brazil will play 12 competitive games against top-50 teams before South Africa in 2010. Germany will play just two (Russia home and away), even though Europe boasts 8-out-of-10 and 15-out-20 of the best teams (on the other end of the scale, England have to be better than two top 15 sides to qualify). The average team ranking of Germany’s qualifying group is 84—(Brazil’s is 40).

  • Comment number 39.

    Perhaps this has already been asked, but is La Paz the lowest venue in Bolivia? Given the effect that the altitude has on incoming teams, I'm surprised if Bolivia (and indeed Ecuador) are allowed to pick their national stadium as one that gives them the biggest advantage, or at least a bigger advantage than some of the other stadiums in the country.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39: FIFA put a limit on altitude but then backtracked and reversed the decision.
    I've been to Quito and La Paz and I noticed a marked difference between the two - even walking up a slight slope in La Paz left me gulping for air (which was really contaminated), whereas Quito wasn't quite so bad.
    As was mentioned, players who are used to altitude find it difficult playing at sea level - the air is too dense and humid for them - however, I doubt whether it's as great a disadvantage as feeling like only one lung is working.

  • Comment number 41.

    Living in South America I get to watch pretty much all the games of the South American qualification. Although I disagree that it is the toughest region to qualify from (I believe that belongs to Africa) it is by far the most entertaining. The difference between the strongest teams such as Argentina and the weakest Peru/Bolivia is not that much any more compared with Europe (Spain, Italy etc to San Marino et al). The majority of matches are entertaining and to a good standard where climate and altitude all play a factor. The likes of Argentina and Ecuador are great to watch and at the beginning of the campaign it would be difficult to predict the top fives teams for qualification. I remember blog comments a few weeks ago saying how it was a shame that top European club teams do not come to South America to play (altough I did see Real Madrid play Santa Fe here in Bogota which was anything but a friendly) but I will go on to say that it is maybe just as disappointing to see that no big European nations come to South America anymore. Maybe they just don't want to test themselves but I guess it is more about the money involved and a tight football calender. I don't always think that Argentina can blame the altitude. I saw them play a mesmorising first half here in Bogota against a useful (but frustating) Colombian team and really only having Tevez to blame for losing. Well done to Bolivia though - great game!

  • Comment number 42.

    I can't see how altitude can even remotely be used as an issue in Argentina's diabolical performance. Haven't Argentina been playing qualifiers in Bolivia for over half a century?! Enough time to know it's a little tricky perhaps...

    Surely the key would be to send a second XI to Bolivia 10 days before the game, as they could have done in this instance. If Argentina genuinely cannot compete with Bolivia using an U-21 team or a second or third XI, then that's a sad indictment of Argentina's strength in depth.

    As for the game, well I watched and it seemed to me that Argentina were lucky not to be 3-0 down after 10 minutes, when fatigue couldn't have been a factor. Tactics (or lack of), a dodgy goalkeeper, and the sad decline of Zanetti were more evident than altitude.

    Poor old Bolivia, their finest footballing hour ignored and turned into a debate about altitude.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's interesting how the players anatomy differ to altitude issues.

    Is it possible for all teams to take a minimum of 4 days to acclimatise themselves?

    I wouldn't risk it for medical rerasons.

    Well Tim, it's always good to read your coloumns and I do so every week.

    I particularly look for news based on Brazil and young Brazilian players.....so keep us posted.

  • Comment number 44.

    #37 It it, though a lot of Bolivia's performances away from home don't exactly help dispel that preception!

    To put Argentina's "performance" into perspective and show it IS possible to get results in La Paz - in qualifying matches here last year Chile (the team after Brasil and Argentina most Bolivians want to beat for historical reasons) played an excellent disciplined counter attacking game and won 2-0; Uruguay managed a great 2nd half, coming back from 2-0 down at half time to draw 2-2 (partly helped by some generous Bolivian defending!)

    #39 I think La Paz is currently the only national stadium that meets FIFA criteria, its even had new moulded plastic seats put in in the last few months! During the FIFA altitude debate #40 mentions Cochabamba (at 2700m, similar to Quito) was touted as a possible replacement, though nothing came of it.

  • Comment number 45.

    The entire system of qualification is complex. S. America has a guaranteed 40% with a fair chance of 50% representation. (ie in a ten team group, five could well qualify) Europe has a tad under 25% (13 from 53) However Brazil are the only team to win the WC when it is played outside of their continent. But wait a minute...a single WC has been hosted in Asia and an Asian team reached the semi-finals, Africa as of yet have never had the luxury of being a host continent. So how do you decide the quotas?

  • Comment number 46.

    Tim,
    Thanks for this very educative and inspiring piece. I do believe the altitude story but the other aspects of such a hammering is the fact that Maradona like most "recent" former players turn coaches do not have the pedigree to read difficult matches. Argentina do not have any excuses, they were roundly beaten period!

    For the other high altitude match between their firecest rivals, brasil and Ecuadors you will notice that even though the Ecuardorians did most of the playing(and they did play some real beautiful and purposeful football)Dunga (another "recent" former Player turn coach) managed to turn the game around in the 72nd minutes just to get the result we now have by taking out the ever "smiling" and entertaining Ronaldinho and bringing in a more experienced and a more discerning Julio Baptista. Moral of the story...Coaches should always have some jokers in their arsenal eithwer to survive or minimise a collosal loss.

  • Comment number 47.

    Its scientific fact that altitude makes a massive difference. apparently Settlers in the 16th century went to these high s.american areas and literally struggled to even reproduce and have children for 2 to 3 generations. this highlights the magnitude of difference playing at this sort of height.
    at the same time i believe that Bolivia and Ecuador should be allowed to keep their advantage. Just like its cold in winter in Iceland, and its boiling everytime England play in a world cup anywhere!

    good on you Bolivia. as for Maradona ... it was pretty obvious whats going to happen to Argentina! its like having Gazza in charge of England!

  • Comment number 48.

    Altitude had to have played a big part in Argentina losing.I have never in all my life seen Javier Masherano play so badly.And yes South America has the most tedious World Cup qualifying process.All ten teams playing each other home and away.Would be better with two groups of five teams each with top two in each qualifying along with the best third placed team.

  • Comment number 49.

    Brazil seemed very lethargic, almost certainly due to the effects of altitude and a warm March afternoon on the equator. I've heard a lot about the 'genetic predisposition' argument and can certainly testify that playing football at altitude here (even amateur 5-a-side games) is exhausting, even after a settling in period.

    Most of Ecuador's squad are originally from the low-lying coastal areas, though, rather than the highlands. In addition, only 4 of the matchday 18 that day currently play at altitude in Quito with their club sides. So, in my opinion, credit where credit is due. Ecuador looked lively and, on that form, at this alttitude, would be a match for any world side. Brazil seemed content to sit back and hit Ecuador on the break (which they eventually started to do in the second half, with Baptista's goal the icing on the cake). Had it not been for some wayward finishing, Ecuador would have been home and dry in the first hour and not needed Noboa's late equaliser. Another day it could have been a mauling.

  • Comment number 50.

    47. "its like having Gazza in charge of England!"

    This made me laugh! You can imagine incidents like Scotland's bevvy session on Sunday night would only be the start of the problems lol.

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim, are you not of the view that Maradona's tactical shortcomings have been exposed, as well as his stupidity in publicly criticising Juan Roman Riquelme. I watched their game against Venezuela, and despite the significant goal margin, it seemed fairly obvious that their attacking play was dis-jointed and lacked fundamental fluidity. It took Messi's individual brilliance, a counter attack and catching Venezuela off guard to unlock the opposing defence. Maradona essentially played with five forwards: Jonas and Maxi looked to stream forward from the wings, while Messi, Aguero and Tevez were given a reference in the central piece of the final third. Against Bolivia, Lucho, Maxi, Messi and Tevez this time formed Argentina's attacking piece.

    Maradona seems to be under the illusion that simply throwing a vast array of attacking talents into a starting eleven, while using Mascherano as an insurance policy, will constitute as enough to over come any opposition. The Venezuela game, as well as the Bolivia match up, highlighted that this is clearly an inadequate route to follow. The Argentinian attacks, famed for fluidity, short passing, patience and flair appeared flawed and lacking in any purpose, in both games - the midfield consisted of simply Mascherano and Gago, while four or five attacking players streamed forward. The missing component?

    Riquelme. This Argentinian side is simply crying out for an instigator, a playmaker - a man who roams freely behind the attacking talents, providing a link between midfield and attack, thus allowing for the fluidity and productive nature of Argentina's passing game in the final third, to return. Neither Messi, Lucho, Maxi, Tevez, Jonas, Aguero or Lavezzi possess the ability to perform this role in the manner in which Riquelme is able to do so - they all possess an urge to stream forward, without ever providing a link, a route via which the ball can be channeled through to the world class attacking players Argentina possess.

    I for one, sincerely hope that Riquelme has a change of heart, and makes peace with the Argentinian boss - for Argentina's sake. Either that, or Maradona beins to acknowledge that his current setup, against world class, defensively tuned opposition, will produce only failure.

  • Comment number 52.

    I wonder if the time spent at altitude will benefit Mascherano and Tevez this weekend. I guess if they are both running around like supermen, in a blur, we'll know it has!

  • Comment number 53.

    Lovers of eccentric football events might enjoy this video (not the greatest quality but its the only video link of it Ive managed to find so far):

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x29i37_foot-au-sommet-6000-m_news

    A short clip from June 2007 of a match involving Bolivian president Evo Morales and played at 6000m on the flanks of Sajama volcano (Bolivia's highest peak) to protest the FIFA ban on football at altitude. Locals from nearby villages lugged the goalposts up the volcano, Evo scored the only goal of the game which was abandoned after 15 mins as the ball kept disappearing down the side of the volcano!

  • Comment number 54.

    Enjoyed the match, Tim. Would you say that the 6-1 defeat proves that Heinze just isn't good enough for Argentina? Will Gabi Milito get in the side when he's fit?

  • Comment number 55.

    CockneyCov asked about the altitiude in Denver and if the Denver Broncos of American Football. I think the multiple substitutions and stoppages help diminish the effects. However, The MLS's Colorado Rapids also play in Denver and there's another MLS team in Salt Lake City which has a similar altitude. Certainly, the level of skill and play in the MLS isn't the same a WC qualifying but much of the physical aspects are nearly equal. MLS players go from high altitude locations to hot, humid locations as there season is during the Summer.

    Just another reason for Beckham to request a permanent transfer back to Europe.

  • Comment number 56.

    This score is an anomaly. It's the worst defeat suffered by Argentina in 100 years, folks! In the past the Argentinian national team and clubs have won many a time in La Paz. It's never easy, but it's not supposed to be, is it? Maradona is a great guy, one of the only high-profile players to support Bolivia's right to chose where they play, but I think he bears much of the responsibility --and has accepted it. He tried to de-dramatize the effects of the altitude but forgot that it's is never easy. And paid dearly for his naivité. I think Maradona is on his way to becoming a pretty good coach --he knows football and his players would give their lives for him--, but he's not there yet. He's smart, though, and will learn fast, which means we'll get to see Messi, Agüero, Mascherano, Tévez and the lot of them probably winning in South Africa. But April 1, 2009 will live in infamy in the history one of then proudest footbaling world powers. And for Bolivia, another awesome scalp has been added to a pretty impressive yet small collection.

    AntonioSaucedo

  • Comment number 57.

    #6 and #55: There is a tremendous difference between Denver (5300 feet) and La Paz (12,000 feet). Running in Denver is pretty easy without acclimatisation (although it's easier with). Doing anything at 12,000 is difficult - particularly if you go into oxygen debt.

    #42: You've got to be kidding - nobody has that "strength in depth" and you're assuming that Bolivia are total rubbish. If you watched the game you'd know that Bolivia are not rubbish - they made Argentina's 1st team look bad.

  • Comment number 58.

    I believe Brazil tried to put a resolution for Concaf not allowing games in altitudes above 2,000 meters, (this would eliminate Quito and La Paz). The argentinian federation (with Maradona support) did not approve it (along of course with Bolivia, Equador and Venezuela). There are problems not only during the qualifiers but also during Libertadores (south america champions cup).
    If you are flying into La Paz, as soon as leave the plane you can feel the low pressure of the air, they will institute a ban only when a player dies during a game.
    In the US and Europe there are no professional games on this altitudes. Denver is less than half(1,600 meters) the altitude of La Paz and it is considered an advantage.

  • Comment number 59.

    I watched the Argentina game with my wife who is Argentine but her mum is of Bolivian descent. We were killing ourself as the Bolivians started at break neck speed blasting shots at the net from all over the pitch - my wife said "these Bolivains have no respect", indeed they didn't and it paid off. Although she couldn't believe the score it is a defeat she would only accept against Bolivia and no other side, I think she quite liked it in a typically humorous Argentine way - obviously a Sheff Utd/ England fan, playing badly is just too common an occurance for me to even find a morsel of humor in a parallel situation!

    On the subject of altitude - I climbed Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, in Ecuador a few years ago, I believe I was well over 5000m. I have no genetic links to altitude but seemed to cope reasonably well, I think there is a genetic difference in people who traditionally have lived at altitude, it is based around red blood cell oxygen capacity as an earlier post noted. For the rest of us its just pot luck. I am reasonably fit and used to run at county level as a youth but have also been a long term fan of night based actiivities. I remember some fellow gringos sneering a little at my penchant to smoke a fair bit, before and during the climb, obviously they were super prepared types with all the best kit and all that rubbish and I had to say I was very even handed later in my support and assistance during the climb as a fair few of them began to succumb to vomiting and other altitude based symptoms as I seemed fairly unaffected. We actually never quite made the summit for the same reason. Its amazing how you notice all the force begin to leave your muscles and think it will never come back yet it does as you descend. You could definitely notice that lethargy in the Argentina teams body language.

    Having said all that the Argentina defenders were an accident waiting to happen and I said that to my wife after the 4-0 victory against Venezuela and that accident was going to happen at any altitude, better now than before its too late to fix.

  • Comment number 60.

    #59 What do you mean by Gringo? So many different meanings this word has: a South American of non-Indian descent, or of Italian descent (since you're married to and Argentine, I'm assuming this is what you meant), a person of European origin, any non-South American? Do tell.

  • Comment number 61.

    58 - no one is going to die playing football in La Paz because of altitude, they'll simply slow down and get substituted! You can die much more easily from heat exhaustion, for instance by overdoing it on the coast of Brasil as was argued against their somewhat petty case against Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia (and Peru's Cuzco games). Brasil already have nearly as many inhabitants as the rest of S.A. put together to draw on so why complain so much about others using their own resources to their advantage. I'm surprised the Brasil FA aren't complaining that Messi received Catalan growth hormones and therefore isn't really Argentinian at all!

  • Comment number 62.

    As far as I understand gringo actually comes from the phrase "green go!!" from North American 2nd World War films and means someone from the USA (the person that told me this may have been joking I don't know) but has come to mean anyone without South American blood. I used it to refer to a group of Northern Europeans, being one myself and getting referred to as a gringo a great deal during my many travels in every country in South America. I've never heard of it being used purely for Italians, my wife is of Quechua/ Spanish descent and her family refer to our soon to be born son as 'gringito' (obviously affectionately). I am prepared to be corrected on this but the word was used in a non-offensive way anyway.

  • Comment number 63.

    I AM FROM SOUTH AMERICA AND THIS BLOG READS REALLY STUPID.

    BRITS HAVE ZERO KNOWLEDGE ABOUT WORLD FOOTBALL; THEY THINK THEIR LEAGUE IS THE BEST (WHEN IN FACT THE TOP TEAMS HAVE FEW ENGLISH PLAYERS) AND THE ENGLISH TEAM CAN BARELY BEAT TEAMS LIKE UKRAINE.

    'WHO ARE YA?'

    TIM SHOWS REAL LACK OF DEEP KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOUTH AMERICAN GAME, BUT TO BRIT EARS IT SOUNDS SO EXOTIC AND 'PROFOUND'.

    JUST LIKE BRITS MYTHOLOGIZE BRAZILIAN FOOTBALL WITHOUT LOOKING AT ITS DARK SIDE.

    WAKE UP ENGLISH PEOPLE!
    GET UR HEAD OUT OF UR EPL ARSE.
    THERE IS MORE AND COMPLEX FOOTBALL IN THE REST OF THE WORLD!


  • Comment number 64.

    Comment 62: I know you used it in a non-offensive manner. My curiosity was purely linguistic. Actually, the word gringo can be found in 17th-century Spanish, so it's pretty old. It comes from "hablar en griego" (to speak in Greek) meaning to speak in an obscure way.

    As for football, thank you for Comment 61. It was petty indeed. Nobody has died and nobody will, but some of the world stars just don't want to be encumbered. V them.

  • Comment number 65.

    or from a song sung by people from the USA in the war against Mexico as the dictionary now informs me. Anyway, I am a blonde Englishman and have got called a gringo (normally with humor and certainly I take it that way) so I am reclaiming the name in the same as Afro-American rappers reclaimed their name which was previously used as a racial slur!

  • Comment number 66.

    THIS IS A REALLY SHALLOW BLOG ENTRY

    dont these "EXPERTS" realize that:


    1. Brazil, which I DONT THINK is in the Andes, has won MANY if not most of its games in La Paz??

    2. Uruguay, which is next to Argentina, tied Bolivia 0-0 a couple of months ago in La Paz?

    3. Chile, Colombia, etc have had ties or victories in La Paz?

    4. Brazil beat Bolivia in the Final of Copa America 1995 in La Paz

    5. Argentina tied Bolivia 3-3 in La Paz during WC 2006 qualifiers

    6. 95% of all Bolivian players in the national team are from Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, the LOWLANDS, which are athe same altitude as Venezuela or Brazil, and most play their club football there.



    also

    the fact that most Argies play in top flight European athletic leagues like EPL, Serie A and Liga.
    Tough, disciplined, physical (to a science), training
    eg Mascherano in Liverpool; Messi in Barca, Zanetti Inter, etc etc
    these guys run like crazy almost EVERY DAY; and have competitive top level games sometimes 2x week


    Also a medical scientific team in Switzerland said that, while there are some effects of altitude of course, a top athlete can manage energy to play well (eg Brazil in Copa america 95; Ronaldo ran the whole field at minute 85 and scored the winning goal).

    Maradona himself went to la Paz last year to play with Evo Morales at high altitude and said there is no MAJOR effect.


    lastly, I played as a kid in La Paz from age 4 to 15 and I dont remember any effects.

    the ball goes faster that is all.


    I bet if the Netherlands played in La Paz, they would tie or beat Bolivia. They are professionals, athletic, and do not whine and complain like South Americans.

  • Comment number 67.

    STOP THE FOOLISH ARGUMENTS ABOUT ALTITUDE!!

    football should be played anywhere

  • Comment number 68.

    Yep just found the greek link as well, like the english phrase 'it's all greek to me'!

    As for comment 63, you're right the EPL is generally pretty predictable that's why I'm glad my side is in the genuinely interesting cauldron of the 2nd Division (or Championship as its been rebranded!). I think your comment is a bit over inclusive though - in my experience there are enlightened people in all countries as there are also idiots/ boludos who shout rubbish all the time and make life a misery for the rest for us, England has its fair share but we don't have exclusive rights on that.

  • Comment number 69.

    THE RESPONSES TO THIS BLOG ARE MOSTLY RIDICULOUS.

    WORLD-FOOTBALL-IGNORANT BRITS TAKE TIM AT HIS WORD.

    THEY THINK HE'S AN 'EXPERT' ON THE MATTER.

    SO HE CAN SPOUT OFF AHISTORICAL, DECONTEXTUALIZED STATEMENTS ABOUT THE 'EVILS OF ALTITUDE' WITHOUT ADDRESSING HISTORICAL FACTS (EG BRAZIL'S HIGH RATE OF SUCCESS IN LA PAZ) OR SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE.

    SHOWS THE PATHETIC LEVEL OF IGNORANCE ABOUT WORLD FOOTBALL SHOWS BY BRITS RIGHT NOW.

    IF ANYTHING, YOU BRITS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT ARGENTINA LOSING 6-1 AND NOT MAKE EXCUSES FOR THEM (ESPECIALLY SINCE DIEGO ROBBED YOU IN 1986).


  • Comment number 70.

    YES
    LETS ARRANGE A GAME BOLIVIA-NETHERLANDS IN LA PAZ.

    THE DUTCH ARE PROFESSIONALS. NO WHINERS. REAL ATHLETES.

    THEY WOULD WIN OR TIE IN LA PAZ'S 'ALTITUDE.'

    THIS WOULD PUT AN END TO WHINING BY ARGIES, BRAZZIES, AND BRITS.

    MESSI WAS THE WORST.
    HE HAD TWO CHANCES. ONE HE SHOT RIGHT INTO THE HANDS OF THE KEEPER ARIAS.
    THE SECOND, HE DID WELL BUT ARIAS DID EVEN BETTER. ONE OF THE BEST SAVES OF ALL TIMES. AS GOOD AS BANKS' SAVE FROM PELE SHOT.

    MESSAGE TO ARGIES AND BRAZZIES: STOP WHINING!!!!!!!!!!! JUST PLAY.
    LIKE DIEGO MARADONA THE ONLY CLASSY ARGIE SAYS.

  • Comment number 71.

    BOLIVIA WOULD BEAT ENGLAND IN LA PAZ 3-0

  • Comment number 72.

    Who cares - you just said earlier that England are rubbish so it would be a hollow victory methinks...

  • Comment number 73.

    Personally - as I said earlier, I congratulate Bolivia, they played great without pause the whole game...

  • Comment number 74.

    First time here people!!!!

    Great blog Timmy

    I am a huge fan of your blogs which is why I have signed up 2day and since I have a lot of time on my hands at work you will hear a fair amount from me mossly nice comments.

    anyway back to the subject why make silly excuess every time big teams like the argentina lose 6-1 just take the lost because the other team where better end off.

  • Comment number 75.

    this is the match that lad flamengo to support the fifa's ban on high altitude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IavBIedf9MY
    i'm not excusing flamengo (i hate them), but this match proves the influence altitude has.

    To Davacano: i agree that people use altitude as excuse for everything. and i was not satisfied when people blamed the altitude in 93 when brazil lost to bolivia. but to say altitude is irrelevant is nonsense. btw, when brazil won copa america in 1997 (not 95) it was very clear that many players were sparing energy through the match. in the end, edmundo almost couldn't run. dunga was barely moving. and zagallo (who was the coach!) was PURPLE when he said the famous phrase "voces vão ter que me engolir".

    about argentina: even though i'm happy with the result, it has an side effect: the terrible dunga will use it forever as an excuse for brazil's bad performances ("look what happened to argentina. but we earned an "heroic" draw against ecuador...")

  • Comment number 76.

    # 66 Not all South Americans complain though. As I say in 56, Diego Magno himself supports Bolivia's right to host games wherever the V they want. Chilavert, the Paraguayan goalkeeping legend, is another supporter. It's usually the Brazilians (not all, of course). And some Argentinians.

    PS: Scots, cut the puritanical nonsense and reinstate Ferguson and McGregor

  • Comment number 77.

    I had to laugh when I saw the coach of Paraguay wearing an oxygen mask on the bench against Ecuador the other night - taking the point a bit far!

  • Comment number 78.

    yea the oxygen mask is HISTRIONICS

    latin theatrics

  • Comment number 79.

    He was jumping about (without it) a few seconds later shouting at the ref! Quality moment for me...

  • Comment number 80.

    76 - I reckon anyone who can do an all-nighter to that extent would probably not notice the altitude, time to reinstate them into a Scotland-B/altitude team to permanently train in the Andes ready for Scotland's neediest hour, maybe against the altitude beaters Holland in Jo'brg next year (my mum's a scot so I do mean this in pure jest)!

  • Comment number 81.

    “95% of all Bolivian players in the national team are from Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, the LOWLANDS, which are athe same altitude as Venezuela or Brazil, and most play their club football there.”

    Except that 6-out-of-11 starting players (and all three used substitutes) in the 6-1 victory play their soccer in the Bolivian ‘highlands’: La Paz, Sucre, Potosi (over 4km last time I was there!), Oruro, and Cochabamba. Kinda ruins your point, huh!

  • Comment number 82.

    81 - HA!!! Good research/ knowledge!

  • Comment number 83.

    The Bolivian team, along with many others in the continent this time around, has been far from consistent, BUT they did draw with Brazil (in Brazil) last September, and with only 10 men for the second half - so it's not only about altitude, but about ATTITUDE. As Maradona acknowledged, Bolivia played better in all parts of the pitch. They kept the ball, passed and crossed it well, and didn't waste their breath running around like headless chickens trying to find the ball, as did the Argentinians much of the time.

  • Comment number 84.

    "1. Brazil, which I DONT THINK is in the Andes, has won MANY if not most of its games in La Paz??"

    Well, from looking here (http://www.staff.city.ac.uk/%7Esc397/football/aifr21_3.htm%29, the best I can do right now, Brazil’s record (W-D-L) against Bolivia between 1949 and 1997 is:

    Home: 5-1-0 (Brazil score 4.5 goals per game)
    Neutral: 7-0-0 (4.4)
    Away: 3-0-3 (2.0)

    Another of your points has fallen a little flat I'd say.

  • Comment number 85.

    "1. Brazil, which I DONT THINK is in the Andes, has won MANY if not most of its games in La Paz??"

    While I’m at it, here is Argentina’s record (W-D-L) against Bolivia (1926 to 2001) from the same site:

    Home: 9-0-0 (3.2 Argentina goals)
    Neutral: 7-1-0 (3.5)
    Away: 2-1-5 (1.4)

  • Comment number 86.

    #81 - this was much the same point as I was making regarding Ecuador.

    I said earlier that only 4 of the matchday 18 for Ecuador that day currently play at altitude in Quito with their club sides. In fact I was overly generous on Brazil, since only 2 of the 13 Ecuadorians that actually got on the pitch play regularly at altitude, one of whom was the goalkeeper.

    As for Diego getting involved in the altitude argument. He was so good, that nothing would have stopped him looking a class above the rest in his heyday. Although obviously not the athlete he once was, the little fella was struggling for air just talking in the press conference which somewhat undermined his argument. His involvement was perhaps overly politically motivated in any case, being as he is mates with half of Latin America's leftist leaders and seeing it as an opportunity to stick two fingers up to the conservative establishment.

  • Comment number 87.

    Erm, Davacano, there's no need to shout. The caps lock key is normally quite a prominent button on the left-hand side of your keyboard.

    I don't know if you're familiar with the expression 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones', but talking about 'pathetic levels of ignorance' while displaying the very same trait yourself makes you look a bit silly. There is no such thing as a British football team, or a British league. Please go away and look up the difference between 'England' and 'Britain' in an encyclopedia. There's a good boy.

  • Comment number 88.

    81 is right. Most of the Bolivian players who creamed Argentina are from the lowlands but play in the highlands. But that doesn't change the fact that every single country in the world choses where to play their home matches. Why would, Bolivia or Ecuador be the exception? The countries that complain the most are Argentina and Brasil (sorry, can't write it with a z; it's just wrong), two of the teams that historically have gotten good results from La Paz but don't want their stars to suffer. Plus, these two usually look down upon the rest of South America. They have this why should I have to even bother attitude. V them. Curiously, most of the rest of South America loves Brasil and dispises Argentina, even though you can argue they're equally disdainful toward their neighbors. I guess Brasilian disdain is lost in translation.

  • Comment number 89.

    #81's argument that Maradon'a support of Bolivia's right to play World Cup Qualifiers in its capital city is motivated by left-wing political leanings is about as stupid a comment that I've seen in ages.

    Maradona, as a professional footballer, and as someone who respects footballers all over the world, just believes that athletes should be able to compete in all venues, wherever they are.

    The Altiplano countries have had to play in cities of exteremely high humidity, which is just as debilitating for those unaccustomed to it, as can be altitude for those from the lowlands

  • Comment number 90.

    Apologies to #81. it was comment #86 I was referring to...

  • Comment number 91.

    "I said earlier that only 4 of the matchday 18 for Ecuador that day currently play at altitude in Quito with their club sides. "

    Strangely, we were making opposite points! I wasn’t offering an opinion on the altitude argument, just refuting davacano’s assertion that most of the Bolivian players ply their trade in the lowlands. To your list though I would add the two players that play in Bogota and Riobamba, making 6-out-11 of the Ecuadorian starters that regularly play their club football at altitude.

  • Comment number 92.

    Maradona - a man with opinions on politics and professional sport, its all OK with me especially when the the 2 cross over a little - as life does most of the time...

  • Comment number 93.

    91 - keep going, I love it when people argue the toss against blunt facts and keep digging a deeper one. Eventually the statistics will have to win ... the people just get drunk and dismiss it all... its a crying shame but people don't like to admit that they are wrong - it doesn't hurt that much surely!

  • Comment number 94.


    since we've had a nationalist buffoon lowering the tone, some clarifications.

    1 - I have defended in this blog the right of teams to play at altitude. I agree -football is universal and should be played everywhere.

    The health risk issue - doesn't convince me - altitude is certainy a discomfort, but specialists seem to think that extreme heat is much more of a risk, and we even have World Cups played in those conditions.

    The home advanatge issue - it clearly does ofer an advantage, but how much hoome advantage is too much? You can go to Moscow and play Russia on an artificial pitch in temperatures way below zero, and this is peritted, so whay not altitude?

    Now we've got that out of the way.

    This doesn't mean, though, that it's the same game. Altitude cleraly has an effect against an unacclimatised opponent. This kind of result (the 6-1) is always a possibility given that

    a) Bolivia play well enough to take advanatge of the conditions - this doesn't always happen. As the blog says, they've found form now - going into the game Botero and Martins were the top scorers in the entire campaign - this tells us something about the threat they offer. They need to play at pace and to stretch the game as much as possible to force the opponents to run;

    b) the opponents have no adequate game plan - which was Argentina's case. Maradona mixed it up - he confused a defence of altitude with the idea that its effects can be overcome purely with a force of will. Motivational slogans were no substitute for a gameplan that adapated his tea to the condition as far as possible - compact, NOT DEFENDING TOO DEEP ( a cardinal sin), trying to take the steam out of the game in midfield and launching a quick striker from time to time - Lavezzi would have been the ideal man for this task - just as Galetti was the last time Argentina visited.

    Brazil's high rate of success in la Paz is simply not true - though they won the final of the 97 Copa America there (with more time to acclimatise) their visits in World Cup qualifying are somethign they dread - the 3-1 defeat in 2001 could easily have been 10. As for Ronaldo, last time round he found Quito too much(at 2,800 significantly lower than La Paz - thaose extra metres to 3,600 make a huge difference).

    Part of Brazil's problem is the way they play these days - they often leave the midfield narrow and depend on the lung power of the full backs to provide the attacking width. Without acclimtisation it simply isn't possible for the full backs to do this amount of running - this was the key reason he team had no midfield v Ecuador - with the full backs not showing high up the field there's no out ball.

    There - some explanation and analysis for you - this line which I get sometimes - 'the Brits can't understand South American football' - it's very tiresome - firstly because I'm not a spokesman for my nationality, and secondly because you never hear it the other way round - (ie we south americans can't possily know anything about the European game).

    Down with nationalisms, down with fascism - the global game belongs to us all.




  • Comment number 95.

    Hear hear - one should never have an opinion if you are British despite the rest of the world having an opinion on us (however 'un'qualified). To be fair my experiences in South America have led me to believe in open-mindedness more than before I set foot on the continent so I urge others to not allow bias to develop as a result of a few idiots (in the same way as you wouldn't build rules for living based on what you hear on an average London bus!).

  • Comment number 96.

    May I add that that opinion of 'Brits" ( I hate that word) is normally a stereotype based on our ancestral imperial 'betters' who were abusing the majority of us on this island in a similar manner to their behaviour in the rest of the world (for example working class Sheffielders been cannon fodder in WW1, shot if they thought their 'educated' 'superiors' were brainless idiots which history clearly demonstrates they were).

    We have more similarities en masse than differences I hope!

  • Comment number 97.

    Amen to that (96) ArgentinaBlade!

  • Comment number 98.

    #91
    "To your list though I would add the two players that play in Bogota and Riobamba, making 6-out-11 of the Ecuadorian starters that regularly play their club football at altitude."

    I'll give you Hurtado who plays for Millonarios in Bogota: apologies for poor altitude knowledge there! But who plays in Riobamba that got on the pitch against Brazil? Sorry, really can't see who you mean although I'll gladly stand corrected. In any case, that makes 3 (or 4, when you tell me who the mystery man is!) players who played in the starting 11 or as subs against Brazil, who regularly play at altitude. Not 6 though.

  • Comment number 99.

    My great grandfather's brother was one of them, shot in the eye age 18 in the Somme - I have/ still use his tin chest in our lounge, one of the things my wife keeps in there is her Argentina flag which comes out on match days - obvio! My great grandfather was lucky - mustard gassed around the same time, told he had 2 years at the most, died aged 90 - we were all laughing at the funeral as I'm sure he would have been if he wasn't a serious atheist...It really bugs me when people judge all British people by the ruling classes' behaviour. Oh well that's media representation for you.

  • Comment number 100.

    Almost 4 years to do the day, Argentina played in La Paz, in the same stadium and won 2-1. Altitude plays a problem for most teams going to Bolivia, but this result was down to shoddy team selection and awful tactics and defending. Also Heinze should never play for the national team again.

    Disappointed Tim. You seem to have shielded Maradona from just criticism in this game. I simply don't buy the entire argument of altitude, when you put into context the severity of the defeat and the absolute abysmal defending. The Argentinean back-line looked like they were playing 8000km above sea-level let alone 3000.

    You only have to look at how one Argentine (Bielsa) approached the game in La Paz and compare it with how the other (Maradona) did. If Argentina collapsed so easily as a result of the altitude, why have they not done it in their previous qualification campaigns?

 

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