Argentina coach Diego Maradona refused to blame the negative effects of competing at altitude after his side were humiliated 6-1 by Bolivia on Wednesday, thus registering their worst defeat in 60 years.
Bolivia’s goals came from a Joaquin Botero hat-trick and Marcelo Martins, Alex Da Rosa and Didi Torrico, while Argentina found the net through Luis Gonzalez at La Paz’s high-altitude Hernando Siles’ stadium.
But the former World Cup winner, who thus suffered his first defeat since taking over as coach last year, refused to explain his faltering team’s performance on playing at 3,650m above sea level.
“No, the altitude was not an issue. We came up against a team that gave very little away and basically they were the better team,” Maradona said. “It seemed to me that Bolivia gave everything they had, they played well and showed us good football.”
That remark prompted applause from media representatives, apparently for Maradona’s sense of fair-play.
He added: “Whoever played against that Bolivian team would have suffered the same fate as us. I suffered with them [the players]. Every Bolivian goal was a dagger in my heart.”
Argentina goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo, who had a memorable night for the wrong reasons, was first beaten in the 12th minute by Bolivia striker Marcelo Martins, who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.
However, the Argentines, twice world champions, were level in the 25th minute when Porto’s Luis Gonzalez hit a shot from 30m without much conviction, but an unexpected bounce meant it went past Bolivia keeper Carlos Arias and into the net.
Bolivia went further ahead in the 34th minute through hat-trick hero Botero of Mexican club Correcaminos, Mexico.
An inspired and motivated Bolivia went 3-1 ahead just before the break, and Da Rosa and then Botero got further goals in the 50th and 66th minutes. Torrico scored the sixth and final goal with three minutes to go. Angel Di Maria was sent off in the 63rd minute to make a terrible night even worse.