Lionel Messi and Argentina struggled in the high altitude against Bolivia when the two nations squared off in South American World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, but the Conmebol leader still managed to come away from La Paz with a 1-1 draw, thanks to Ever Banega’s 40th minute equalizer, which was set up by a solo run from Messi
La Paz sits at 13,123 feet above sea level, which is roughly equivalent to playing a game on top of California’s Mount Ritter in the Sierra Nevada. As such, Bolivia tends to do very well at home. In fact, the last time Bolivia hosted Argentina in World Cup qualifying in 2009, it won 6-1, sparking rumors that then-coach Diego Maradona would not survive qualification (although Maradona eventually took Argentina to the 2010 World Cup).
As the Independent points out, Messi getting sick on the field and winger Angel Di Maria receiving oxygen during the game underscored the difficult conditions. With that in mind, the 1-1 tie in La Paz could be seen as a victory for Alejandro Sabella’s men, which currently lead the Conmebol standings with 23 points, four ahead of second-place Ecuador.