Brazil on Tuesday became the first nation to qualify for next year’s World Cup, joining hosts Russia, with a dominant 3-0 win over Paraguay – clinching an eighth consecutive victory.
This is just as Bolivia took advantage of Lionel Messi’s absence to claim a comfortable 2-0 victory, harming Argentina’s hopes of World Cup qualification in La Paz.
Argentina had been rocked just hours before kick-off after confirmation Messi had been hit with a four-match ban following a ruling from disciplinary chiefs at world governing body FIFA in Zurich.
The Barcelona superstar was stunned after being suspended for four of Argentina’s five remaining World Cup qualification matches for swearing at an official in a game against Chile last week.
Messi’s suspension left Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza forced to make a hasty reshuffle to his starting line-up, bringing in Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa in attack while leaving Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero on the bench.
But Argentina, clearly struggling in the thin air of La Paz, which is 3,600 metres (11,800 feet) above sea level, were well beaten at the Estadio Hernando Siles.
Following Uruguay’s upset 2-1 defeat to Peru in the day’s final South American qualifier combined with other results meant Brazil are mathematically guaranteed a place at next year’s finals in Russia.