Argentina’s men’s national football team 3-0 win away at Bolivia left more than one highlight. The Albiceleste were without its leader Lionel Messi, who was sidelined recovering from a bump suffered in the opener against Ecuador. However, his absence gave no edge to the Bolivians, who suffered a historic defeat.
Dibu Martinez breaks Bolivia’s 50-year streak
Argentina may lead in their head-to-head against Bolivia, but things haven’t always gone smoothly in La Paz. Argentine goalkeepers have more often than not conceded at least one goal at the Hernando Siles stadium, where the 3,577 meters a.s.l. altitude has long been a stumbling block for the Albiceleste — its most infamous defeat surely the 6-1 thrashing suffered in 2009 when Diego Maradona was the coach.
However, Dibu Martínez isn’t like other goalkeepers. His dominance of the spot between Argentina’s sticks added a new milestone Tuesday by breaking a streak that had gone untouched for 50 years: by keeping a clean sheet, Martínez became the first Argentine to deny Bolivia a goal in La Paz since Daniel Alberto Carnevali did it in 1973.
The record becomes even more impressive when considering the legends that have occupied the same position on Argentina’s national team, such as Ubaldo Filliol, Nery Pumpido and Sergio Goycochea.
Lionel Scaloni becomes 2nd-ever coach to win twice at La Paz
Winning at La Paz is hard enough to do once, but doing it twice is nearly unheard of. In fact, only two coaches have managed it, and both are Argentine.
The first to ever do it was former Argentina and Colombia coach José Néstor Pekerman. The Argentina coach made his name as a three-time Under 20 FIFA World Champion with the Albiceleste’s youngsters. However, it was during his time as the men’s first team coach during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers that he got his first win at La Paz. He’d repeat that feat more than a decade later, leading Colombia’s national team to victory in the Bolivian capital in 2016.
Scaloni, however, is the first coach to achieve it with the same national team. His previous win was in October 2022, when Argentina beat Bolivia 2-1 on route to the 2022 World Cup. Scaloni also remains undefeated in the South American Qualifiers, with 13 wins and 6 draws.
La Paz will remain Messi’s kryptonite
It wasn’t all good news for Argentina in Bolivia. Many were expecting Messi to play and score to become the all-time record holder in the South American Qualifiers with 30 goals to his name. However, the Argentine captain had to sit the game out.
While the record is still within his grasp, Messi missed an historic opportunity to get a goal in La Paz, where he remains scoreless. Considering the timeline of his career, this may have been his last chance.
With the 2024 Copa América to be played in the United States, Messi may have played his last competitive game in La Paz. Should Argentina not play an official friendly match in the city before he retires, it will remain one of the few places on earth where the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner hasn’t been able to find the back of the net.