Lautaro Martinez lauded Argentina's character after a 2-1 win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Joaquin Correa scored a 79th-minute winner for Lionel Scaloni's men, who made it two wins from two to begin their qualifying campaign.

It marked Argentina's first victory in Bolivia since 2005 as they claimed an important win in the altitude of La Paz.

Martinez, who became the first Argentina player not called Lionel Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since November 2016 when he cancelled out Marcelo Martins Moreno's opener, was delighted.

"We knew the game was going to be like this. I think this team today showed a lot of heart and a lot of head," the Inter forward said.

"We are very happy."

Martinez added: "We had thought about what this game meant for us because of the history.

"We are not going to deny that it is difficult to play here, it changes a lot."

Martinez also set up Correa's winner as Argentina backed up their narrow victory over Ecuador.

Argentina coach Scaloni was also pleased with his substitutes, with Correa among them as he netted his second international goal.

"With the changes we always try to improve," he said.

"They gave us freshness and they entered very well."

Joaquin Correa came off the bench to score the winner as Argentina came from behind to defeat Bolivia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Argentina fell behind in the altitude of La Paz, which is situated at 3,650 metres above sea level, when Marcelo Moreno Martins found the back of the net after 24 minutes.

Parity was restored before half-time as Jose Carrasco's clearance cannoned in off Lautaro Martinez, who became the first Albiceleste player not called Lionel Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since November 2016.

Correa replaced Lucas Ocampos just before the hour mark and fired home the winner with 11 minutes remaining, with Argentina claiming their first victory in Bolivia for 15 years.

Martins had a chance to put Bolivia ahead in the sixth minute but headed Saul Torres' looping delivery wide with Franco Armani scrambling.

Bolivia threatened regularly and got their reward when Martins was left in space by Lucas Martinez Quarta and nodded Alejandro Chumacero's cross beyond Armani.

Leandro Paredes saw a curling 20-yard strike crash back off the post before Argentina drew level in bizarre circumstances when Carrasco's laboured attempt to clear Martinez's cutback ricocheted in off the Inter attacker.

Argentina sat back after the restart and looked to counter-attack as Bolivia went in search of a second goal.

Chances were at a premium until Messi's delightful throughball fashioned one for Martinez in the 75th minute. However, his cross-goal effort from the right side of the area was turned behind by Carlos Lampe.

There was nothing Lampe could do to keep out Correa, though, with the goal allowed to stand after a VAR check confirmed Martinez was onside from Messi's pass, meaning Argentina left with maximum points from their two qualifiers.

Roberto Firmino lavished high praise on Brazil team-mate Philippe Coutinho, claiming he has "magical powers" that help him see passes and moves that other players could not imagine.

Coutinho and Firmino have been team-mates since 2014 when the latter broke into the Brazil setup, four years after the Barcelona attacker.

But in 2015 they became Liverpool colleagues as well when Firmino joined from Hoffenheim, as the foundations for Jurgen Klopp's all-conquering Reds began to take shape.

Coutinho ultimately left for Barcelona in 2018 before Liverpool realised their full potential, and ever since little has gone right for the Vasco da Gama youth product, who struggled at Camp Nou before failing to earn a permanent move to Bayern Munich.

But Firmino remains convinced of the talent still held by Coutinho, who has been given a fresh chance at Barca under new head coach Ronald Koeman.

"He's phenomenal," Firmino told FIFA. "You simply can't say that he's not a magician. He has magical powers.

"He produces plays that don't exist, that you couldn't make up. You always have to watch replays of his plays to understand what he's done. He's an unbelievable player.

"It was a pleasure to play with him at Liverpool, and it's a pleasure to play with him for the Selecao. I'm a huge fan of his. He's one of the very best players in the world."

Like Coutinho, Firmino scored in Brazil's most recent match – the 5-0 demolition of Bolivia in Sao Paulo.

Firmino was the leading the line for Brazil, a role he has become accustomed to both at club level and with the Selecao, and he hopes to be a long-term option in a position the team has arguably been short in since the days of Ronaldo.

"Yes, definitely, I love playing in this position, I want to be the player Brazil can rely on in this position," he said, before outlining how coach Tite has asked him to play the role.

"It's not that he asked me not to help out, but he wants me to always be in the area. I still have to get back to mark, but he wants me to chase back less after the ball, be in the box more.

"I have a natural urge to help out, get back – I do this for Liverpool – so I have put this aside and do what Tite has asked of me.

"I enjoy being involved in play, creating goals, but I also enjoy being in the box, scoring goals."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has compared playing football in La Paz to "drowning" as he braces his team for the challenge posed by competing at altitude in Tuesday's clash with Bolivia.

La Albiceleste will be hoping to build on their winning start to World Cup qualification on, having beaten Ecuador 1-0 on Friday.

But up next is one of the trickiest tasks on the South American football calendar; getting a result in La Paz.

It is situated roughly 3,650 metres (11,975ft) above sea level, making La Paz the highest capital city on Earth and consequentially causing some visiting athletes to struggle due to the air pressure.

Unacclimatised individuals are known to suffer from breathlessness much faster at such altitudes, giving Bolivia a significant advantage in some home matches.

Never has this been more applicable than when Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1 in 2009, despite the visitors having the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Zanetti and Javier Mascherano in their starting XI.

Argentina's last trip to La Paz in 2017 resulted in a 2-0 defeat, and with their squad vastly different this time around, Scaloni – who played in their most recent away win in Bolivia 15 years ago – is preparing the team for a gruelling challenge.

"I am going to talk about it with the players one by one," Scaloni said. "We are going to evaluate everyone.

"Before we get to the pitch, we will not realise how players react. Coming two days before the match, the idea was to notice [the effects on individual players].

"We need the players at 100 per cent. If there is a player who is not at 100 per cent, I will speak and make the best decision for the team. The important thing is the hour and a half before the game.

"There is no formula, whether you come the day before the game or two days before. You have to spend 20 days training to have a physical condition equal to theirs.

"Drowning. All the players are going to drown. The issue is the feeling that each one has. We are doing everything possible so that they can get to the game in the best way."

Scaloni's plan for the match will seemingly hinge heavily on captain Messi, with the Argentina coach emphasising the importance of retaining possession and exploiting set-pieces.

"I spoke with everyone and with Lionel Messi in particular," he continued. "There are players who suffer more, others who suffer less, due to physical and training issues.

"We prepare the game in a way that we think can go well. It is a football match. We have a clear idea, we transmit it. The important thing is the journey of the ball.

"We have to use all our weapons. We try to take away the anxiety. We have enough to come here and be at 3,000-odd metres. The more you have the ball, the better.

"When we won in 2005, we scored goals from set pieces. They were specific situations and the game was defined there. We emphasise that."

Argentina and Bolivia have met 20 times in World Cup qualifiers – all five of the latter's victories coming at home.

Similarly, Argentina have only won on three of their 10 trips to La Paz and that 6-1 defeat 11 years ago is the joint-largest defeat in their history.

Brazil coach Tite praised the performance of Neymar and was pleased at Roberto Firmino's contribution in the 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia. 

Liverpool forward Firmino scored twice as Brazil opened their World Cup qualifying campaign in impressive fashion, despite having not played an international fixture in nearly 12 months. 

Marquinhos and Philippe Coutinho also scored, with Bolivia not helping their cause with an own goal in the rout in Sao Paulo. 

Neymar did not score but was influential throughout, the Paris Saint-Germain forward showing no signs of the back problem that had bothered him during the build-up to the game. 

"We seek knowledge, strategies, [to play] with harmony," Tite said after the resounding victory. 

"Neymar was looser, more central, with freedom of movement, as the opponent's marking is more demanding.  

"Coutinho played inside, with Firmino not far behind. He [Firmino] did not seek the ball so much, he waited for it more.  

"He scored two and could have had two more. As the game requires, we may not change the function of the team, but adapt it to suit."

Brazil are next in action on Tuesday, when they are away to Peru. 

Tite will hope his side can be just as clinical on their travels in what will be a repeat of the 2019 Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro, a game the Selecao won 3-1 to lift the trophy.

"It is a feature to maintain possession of the ball. But there is no use getting the ball and finishing little," the Brazil boss added in his press conference.

Roberto Firmino scored twice as Brazil eased past Bolivia 5-0 in a dominant display to kick off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Brazil barely raised a sweat in their opening CONMEBOL qualifier on Friday, outclassing Bolivia thanks to Firmino's brace, while Marquinhos and Philippe Coutinho were also on target, to go with a Jose Carrasco own goal.

Tite's Brazil had not played since their 3-0 win over South Korea in a November friendly after the coronavirus pandemic forced World Cup qualifying to be postponed in March, but the Selecao did not look like a team featuring for the first time in 2020.

Brazil dominated from the outset and they should have scored two goals inside three minutes, however, Everton and Marquinhos wasted golden opportunities in the pouring Sao Paulo rain.

Marquinhos, who glanced a header wide in the third minute, made no mistake in the 16th minute as he got on the end of a Danilo cross and headed powerfully past Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe to open the scoring.

Bolivia could not get close to Brazil and the visitors almost conceded again after Coutinho's shot from the top of the penalty area took a wicked deflection and skidded off the turf, forcing Lampe into a fine diving save.

Bolivia's non-existent defending was exposed when Renan Lodi made an unmarked run and whipped a ball across the six-yard box for Firmino to tap home.

Brazil continued where they left off in the second half after Firmino netted within four minutes of the restart – Neymar playing a ball to his team-mate, who routinely poked home.

Weverton – playing in the absence of injured number one goalkeeper Alisson – had nothing to do until he was called into action by Bruno Miranda's rising shot in the 50th minute.

Brazil showed no mercy as Carrasco deflected the ball into his own net past the hour mark, before Neymar provided the cross for the onrushing Coutinho to head home emphatically with 17 minutes remaining.

 

What does it mean? Brazil dance to their own beat

Brazil took to the field for the first time in almost a year and the South American giants did not look off the pace, unlike rivals Argentina on Thursday. Albeit against weaker opposition, Brazil kicked off their road to Qatar 2022 in ruthless fashion.

Neymar pulls the strings

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was not on the scoresheet, but he produced a great performance. After shaking off a back problem, Neymar was at the heart of Brazil's big moments, providing a pair of assists in his 102nd international appearance.

Sorry Bolivia

It was always going to be an uphill battle for South America's whipping boys. Bolivia – beaten 3-0 by Brazil in their last meeting at the 2019 Copa America – rarely threatened, pegged back in their own half for the majority of the contest.

What's next?

Brazil will face Peru on Tuesday, while Bolivia host Lionel Messi's Argentina on the same day.

Lionel Scaloni sensed anxiety in the Argentina ranks as his team began their Qatar 2022 World Cup mission with a 1-0 win over Ecuador.

Victory came courtesy of Lionel Messi's early penalty after Lucas Ocampos was impeded, with Argentina far from their best at La Bombonera.

A home game in Buenos Aires behind closed doors was an uncomfortable way to start the road to the finals, and Argentina's next game will be no easier as they travel to La Paz to face Bolivia on Tuesday.

Yet Scaloni, who pointed to seven players making their first appearances in World Cup qualifying games, was just happy to get the victory.

"We won, which is the most important thing to start a competition of this calibre," he said. "The conditions weren't easy, with a fast pitch and no fans, added to the difficulties of not having been together for so long.

"There are things to highlight and others to improve. I'm left with the desire, with the sacrifice. We will have time to work. The important thing was to get the result forward.

"There were many players who debuted in qualifiers today. It's not easy to play with this shirt and anxiety is typical of that situation.

"We were clear that this could happen because it was the first game. They took a great step when they made their debut and won."

Bolivia scored a 2-0 home win over Argentina in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and going to high altitude next week will be a serious test for Scaloni's team.

"We're going to see how the players recover and then we will think about Bolivia. We know that it is a game with conditions different from all the others," Scaloni said.

Argentina are now unbeaten in their last eight matches, while Messi took his tally to 71 goals for La Albiceleste.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar is doubtful for Brazil's opening World Cup 2022 qualifier against Bolivia with a back injury.

Footage on social media this week showed Neymar putting his hand on his lower back and keeling on the floor in pain during a training session.

He was unable to train on Thursday and Tite is now preparing to be without his key man for Friday's clash in Sao Paulo, with Flamengo's Everton Ribeiro on standby.

Brazil's team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar confirmed a decision will be made on Neymar's availability on Friday and Tite added: "We will have to wait and see.

"If we are without Neymar then it will be Everton in his place."

Brazil are already without goalkeeper Alisson and striker Gabriel Jesus but Tite still has a deep squad to choose from for the double-header with Bolivia and Peru.

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro will captain the side in the absence of Dani Alves, who is regaining fitness after an injury layoff, while Weverton and Douglas Luiz will also start.

"The captain for tomorrow's game is Casemiro," Tite said. "He is one of the captains, one of the leaders we have.

"We have three great goalkeepers but Weverton has played at a high level.

"Douglas Luiz is another. We want to give him greater freedom to attack from the left side. He needs to be able to supply the man up front."

Brazil will belatedly get their qualifying campaign up and running after the first four rounds of fixtures were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Selecao won the 2019 Copa America but have advanced past the quarter-final stage of the World Cup just once since 2002, when they won the fifth of their titles.

That occasion was on home soil in 2014, in which they suffered a humiliating 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany.

"It is about enjoying the pressure," Tite said at his pre-match news conference on Thursday. "It is my responsibility to make decisions and win titles.

"I have the opportunity to be a world champion with Brazil. But this is a team under construction."

CONMEBOL has asked FIFA to postpone the start of its 2022 World Cup qualifying, scheduled for this month, due to coronavirus fears.

In a letter sent to FIFA on Wednesday, CONMEBOL asked for its opening qualifiers, scheduled for March 26, 27 and 31, to be postponed.

COVID-19 has killed more than 4,600 people worldwide while affecting more than 126,000.

CONMEBOL cited the possibility of players not being able to travel from Europe due to coronavirus as a reason for its request.

"The member countries of CONMEBOL – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela have requested the CONMEBOL to submit to FIFA's consideration the request to postpone the start of the qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup," the statement read in part.

Lionel Messi's Argentina are due to begin their qualifying campaign against Ecuador in Buenos Aires, while Brazil are scheduled to face Bolivia in Recife.

The other matchday one games are Paraguay-Peru, Uruguay-Chile and Colombia-Venezuela.

Neymar is back in the Brazil squad for their first World Cup qualifiers, but goalkeeper Alisson is missing despite only being ruled out for a week by Liverpool with a hip injury.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed on Friday that Alisson is set to miss the Reds' next two matches against Bournemouth and Atletico Madrid after sustaining a hip problem in training.

Klopp said the situation will be clear after next week, but Brazil have left him off their list for matches against Bolivia and Peru, to be played on March 28 and April 1, respectively.

Brazil coach Tite confirmed in his news conference Alisson has been excluded from the selection due to injury.

Neymar returns, however, after he missed their previous matches in November due to fitness issues of his own, though Tite seemed frustrated when asked about the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

"Hopefully all high-level athletes are at their best and that I have to answer 300 questions about why one player and not the other," he said.

"I want to have difficult decisions all the time, that everyone is in good form, Neymar included."

Notable inclusions are Bruno Guimaraes, Felipe and Everton Ribeiro.

Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is in line for his first cap, Felipe is hoping to get only his second and Flamengo's Everton Ribeiro has not represented the Selecao since the 2015 Copa America.

"In the case of Everton, he returns because he has great form in his creative process," Tite said. "Bruno Guimaraes had a great championship last year for Athletico Paranaense, we followed him in the Under-23s and in Lyon, this consolidates, strengthens.

"It is likewise with Felipe. We followed two games that were emblematic of Atletico Madrid, against Liverpool and Valencia."

Brazil squad in full:

Weverton (Palmeiras), Ederson (Manchester City), Ivan (Ponte Preta); Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), Danilo (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo), Everton (Gremio), Richarlison (Everton), Bruno Henrique (Flamengo).

Argentina will open the 2020 Copa America with a blockbuster clash against Chile in Buenos Aires.

In a rematch of this year's third-place play-off, which Argentina won as Lionel Messi and Gary Medel were sent off, the teams will meet again at the El Monumental on June 12 next year.

While the draw took place on Tuesday, the nations already knew almost all of their opponents with teams split into zones for next year's tournament in Argentina and Colombia.

However, Australia – playing at their first Copa America – were drawn into Group A, which features Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay.

Qatar, the other invited nation, will meet Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

Brazil will go into the tournament as defending champions after their success at home this year.

The top four teams in each group will advance to the quarter-finals.

Group A: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay.
Group B: Colombia, Brazil, Qatar, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru.

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