S America WC qualifying prev

Argentina captain Lionel Messi insists his table-topping team will not underestimate the threat of facing Bolivia at altitude in La Paz.

Last Updated: 25/03/13 at 13:24 Post Comment

Lionel Messi: Preparing for Bolivia test

Lionel Messi: Preparing for Bolivia test

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Bolivia are second-bottom of the South American World Cup qualifying group but are always a threat at home and hammered Argentina 6-1 in the 2010 qualifiers.

Messi expects a tough duel at the Estadio Hernando Siles, having told Argentinian media: "We have achieved nothing yet. We are playing Bolivia and they are hard to pass.

"Everybody knows what happened last time so we are hopeful to clinch a positive result."

Argentina lead the group by four points, with Colombia in second place.

Colombia defender Camilo Zuniga claimed the whole squad remain grounded even though a win over Venezuela on Tuesday night could place them very close to qualification for next year's World Cup.

They climbed to second in the South American section with a 5-0 triumph over Bolivia on Friday.

Zuniga warned Colombia should remain calm and not get over-excited at the prospect of playing in the 2014 finals in Brazil.

He told reporters in Bogota: "We always go looking for the three points. The victory last week was important, but we must keep focused and our goal should remain clear ahead of the Venezuela game."

Edwin Valencia added: "Venezuela are excellent rivals so we must play an excellent game on their soil."

Venezuela remain in contention to secure a first-ever World Cup finals appearance.

They are currently fifth, good enough for a play-off against a team from the Asian qualifying section for the right to play in Brazil.

Argentina beat them 3-0 on Friday but coach Cesar Farias said defiantly: "We have recovered from tougher blows."

Goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez added: "When we are hit, we get up and try to kill our rival.

"When we are down, we usually clinch unexpected results so we must keep calm. If you see the standings, we are still in a good position."

Chile and Uruguay are also fighting in the middle of the table, with the former fourth and Chile sixth in the standings.

Both sides will have important players absent through suspension, as Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez and Uruguayan duo Maxi Pereira and Diego Perez will miss the game in Santiago.

Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, who has urgently called Esteban Paredes in to replace Sanchez in the squad, told the media that they must make a swift recovery from the 1-0 defeat in Peru.

"I hope we can complete against Uruguay everything we failed to do against Peru," Sampaoli commented.

"The team had high peaks in the Peru match. In the first half, we played much better against a very dangerous Peru. Uruguay will be as dangerous and tough as Peru."

Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani, meanwhile, told La Tercera newspaper: "Nothing is impossible. Uruguay have recovered worse moments. And I don't think this is the worst one.

"Chile play dynamic football. Alexis Sanchez will not play and he is one of their most important men, but their team overall is good and they are quick in attack."

Finally, Paraguay travel to Ecuador hopeful to climb off the bottom of the standings, a position no one expected them to find themselves in at the beginning of the campaign.

Having collected only eight points from the 10 rounds played so far, they share the last position with Bolivia, while Ecuador are third.

Paraguay playmaker Edgar Benitez, who scored the equaliser against Uruguay in a 1-1 draw on Friday, expects a totally different match in Quito, at 2,800 metres above sea level.

Benitez told reporters: "Ecuador are not as tough as Uruguay. Besides, they had a bye last weekend so they will be physically fine.

"Tuesday's match will be crucial to keep dreaming (of the qualification). This team has plenty of experience and have already played under big pressure. It is difficult, but not impossible."

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