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Argentina’s World Cup hopes suffer major blow without Lionel Messi in Bolivia

Argentina succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia – just six hours after captain Lionel Messi was handed a four-match international suspension.

The loss means Argentina’s chances of qualifying for next year’s tournament remain in question and highlights the extent to which Edgardo Bauza’s men are expected to suffer without Messi among their ranks.

La Albiceleste have now won five out of their six qualifiers in which the Barcelona star has played, but have emerged victorious in just one of the eight clashes he has missed.

Bauza’s side currently sit in fourth in the table on 22 points, just ahead of Ecuador. Automatic qualification is handed to the top-four finishers while fifth enters into the inter-confederation play-offs.

Without Messi for their next three must-win games against Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, Argentina face a daunting road ahead as they battle to guarantee their spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Tuesday’s trip to La Paz proved to be one of the most testing fixtures of Argentina’s entire campaign.

Despite currently sit second-bottom of the CONMEBOL qualifying table, Bolivia have established a notorious home record due to the difficult conditions of their stadium, the Estadio Hernando Siles, which sits at an altitude of 3,637m above sea level.

Juan Carlos Arce opened the scoring with a header to hand Bolivia the deserved lead, while Marcelo Moreno added the decisive second after the break to secure victory for the home side.

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