Argentina’s national team, led by Lionel Messi, will play its second match in the South American World Cup qualifiers tonight. Messi and his teammates travel to Bolivia, where they must play at an altitude of at least 3,637 metres. They take the necessary measures to do so.
The trip to La Paz is a regular occurrence for Bolivia’s rivals in the preliminary rounds of the World Cup in South America. Hernano Siles Stadium is located at 3,637 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest stadiums in the world. For comparison: during the last Tour de France, the Tour’s ceiling was at 2300 metres, at the top of the Col de la Loze – much lower.
A few years ago, FIFA banned matches at altitudes above 2,500 meters because the visiting team did not have enough time to adapt to the conditions, but an exception was made at the Hernano Siles stadium.
In the past, Neymar criticized the situation in La Paz. After a match in the 2017 World Cup qualifiers, the Brazilian star described playing football at such a high altitude as “inhumane.” The higher the altitude, the less oxygen the lungs can absorb.
That’s why Argentina has taken the necessary measures to move to Bolivia tonight. Each player was given their own oxygen bottle, through which they could literally breathe every now and then. On Instagram, Liverpool midfielder Alexis McAllister shows how he uses an oxygen bottle.
It remains to be seen whether captain and star player Lionel Messi will also play for La Paz. The Inter Miami striker scored the winning goal in the opening match against Ecuador last Friday, but was forced to leave in the final stage due to a (minor) injury. “He will definitely travel,” national team coach Lionel Scaloni said. “He trained separately, but we will decide today whether he will play or not.”
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