Bolivia: Nineties NostalgiaBy: Juan Mesa
Bolivia has been looking for a generation of players capable of bringing back those glory days of the nineties, a decade in which their national team qualified to the 1994 World Cup and reached the Copa America final in 1997.
But the past two decades have been sour for the Andean nation. They have not passed the group stage in the last five versions of Copa América, and their level of play is quite below their regional rivals. Starting on June 12, when debut in the tournament against Mexico, they will have another chance of climbing back the ladder of glory.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Most of the players called by coach Mauricio Soria play in Bolivian clubs. This might not intimidate anyone at first, but means they know each other well, which can prove key in an international tournament. They will also be introducing Sebastián Gamarra, a 17-year old midfielder that is part of the AC Milan youth squad and is supposed to be the new Marco “Diablo” Etcheverry they’ve been waiting for.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: After being in the losing path for so many years, La Verde doesn’t have much confidence, something that becomes evident in the lack of scoring, or the games lost due to defensive missteps. During the World Cup qualifiers, Bolivia normally uses the advantage of the altitude of La Paz altitude, but in Chile they’ll play their two first games at sea level.
COPA AMÉRICA CHANCES: The calendar favors Bolivia, as they won’t have to play host nation Chile until the last game of the group stage. If they want to advance to the quarter-finals, they need to collect points against México and Ecuador, the other two members of Group A.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Bolivia won the 1963 Copa América, when they were serving as hosts. That team was led by Víctor Ugarte and Máximo Alcócer, who became national heroes after beating all the teams except for Ecuador (opening match, a 4-4 draw). Although the Bolivians were praised for their win, the fact that Argentina played with under 20s and Brazil brought a B team undermined their feat.
IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: Friday Night Lights, where an undervalued team that becomes a winner while searching for its identity