Ángel Correa, showcasing Messi’s iconic ’10’ jersey in La Paz

Argentina’s national team, the reigning world champions, delivered a resounding away victory on Tuesday, defeating Bolivia 3-0 in the challenging altitude of La Paz. The match was marked by the presence of Lionel Messi, who watched from the sidelines without even donning his playing gear. However, it was Ángel Correa, the Atletico Madrid player, who stole the spotlight by wearing the iconic number 10 jersey that is typically reserved for Messi. This unconventional move made Correa the first player other than Messi to don the prestigious number 10 shirt adorned with three stars, symbolizing Argentina’s World Cup triumphs.

The scoring began in the 31st minute when Enzo Fernández found the back of the net. Nicolás Tagliafico extended Argentina’s lead in the 42nd minute, and Nicolás González sealed the victory in the 83rd minute. Bolivia was reduced to ten men in the 39th minute of the match, further complicating their chances of a comeback. The game, which took place at the Hernando Siles Stadium, was part of the second round of the South American qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup.

Argentina dominated the first half, creating several scoring opportunities before their first goal. Rodrigo De Paul came close to scoring in the 9th minute with a low shot that narrowly missed the target. Fernández also had a chance in the 11th minute, but Bolivian goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra made a crucial save. In the 19th minute, a defensive error by Bolivia’s Adrián Jusino allowed Julián Álvarez to threaten their goal, only to be denied once again by Viscarra.

Bolivia had a couple of chances of their own, including a shot from Jaime Arrascaita early in the game. Marcelo Martins Moreno, Bolivia’s all-time leading scorer and captain, managed to steal the ball in the 22nd minute and passed it to the young Víctor Ábrego, whose shot lacked power and was comfortably saved by Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.

Argentina’s breakthrough came in the 31st minute through a well-executed combination play involving Álvarez, Ángel Di María, and Fernández, who applied the finishing touch to put the ball past Viscarra. In the 36th minute, Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich initially showed a second yellow card to Roberto Carlos Fernández, who had already been cautioned in the 14th minute. However, after a VAR review, the yellow card was rescinded, and a straight red card was shown, reducing Bolivia to ten men.

Argentina’s second goal came from a free-kick taken by Di María, which found Tagliafico’s head in the 42nd minute, extending their lead. In the second half, Bolivia’s coach, Argentine Gustavo Costas, made some changes to compensate for the numerical disadvantage, but his team struggled to find a way past Argentina’s solid defense. Meanwhile, Argentina played with confidence and composure, knowing they had a comfortable lead.

Bolivia narrowly avoided conceding another goal in the 71st minute when Álvarez’s shot struck the post and went wide. However, Argentina’s third goal eventually came in the 83rd minute due to a defensive lapse by Bolivia, allowing González to capitalize and effectively seal the match.

This historic victory for Argentina not only showcased their prowess on the field but also highlighted the enduring legacy of Lionel Messi. While Messi watched from the sidelines, Correa’s bold decision to wear the number 10 jersey added a unique twist to the game. The significance of this gesture cannot be understated, as it symbolizes the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. Correa’s choice to wear the number 10 will undoubtedly be remembered as a testament to Messi’s impact on Argentine football.

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