The Frail: Bolivia
A Copa América 2015 Profile by Jaleel Tapper-Gray
“…take them from their fortress, and they become horribly exposed.”
Historically, Bolivia haven’t been the best performing side in the Copa América but have done something a lot of the other competitors, including the hosts, haven't managed. In 1963 as hosts themselves, Bolivia went all the to lifting the trophy. Then in 1997, also as hosts, Bolivia finished runners up. There are various factors that contribute to their success at home, (fan support, altitude) but just as consistent as their strength as hosts, is their weakness as visitors. Bolivia’s best finish away from Bolivian soil was fourth, and that was all the way back in 1949.
Sitting in 92nd place in the FIFA World Rankings, Bolivia are the lowest ranked team in the 2015 Copa América. They play in a group with Chile, Mexico and Ecuador, three sides who are all much stronger than they are. They’ve only won one game in their last seven. Their manager has only been in charge since January and has had little time to prepare. It doesn’t look good on paper.
Moving On Up
Having said that, that lone victory was under the reign of the new man Mauricio Soria, a 3–2 victory over Venezuela. He also picked up a very surprising (albeit fortnate) 2–2 draw against Chile. In fact, in his three games in charge Soria has lost only once, that being Bolivia’s last friendly before the Copa, a 5–0 reality check by tournament favourites Argentina.
Soria knows Bolivian football well, and has won three championship titles in his nine years as a coach.
The vast majority of the Bolivian squad is comprised of Bolivian based players, notably from current champions Bolívar, as well as Blooming, The Strongest and Oriente Petrolero.
Leading the line though, will probably be Marcelo Martins Moreno, who earlier this year signed for Chinese club Changchun Yatai. Alongside him (or possibly just behind in what could become a 4–2–3–1) will be Pablo Escobar or Alcides Peña. Campos and Lizio, if he is indeed deployed in a wide area, provide the attacking flare, as well as Morales from left back.
But Bolivia’s main concern will not be scoring goals, rather keeping them out at the other end. Their centre midfielders are defensively minded and captain Ronald Raldes is the glue that will hold the team together.
In a group with the hosts, and two other sides with far stronger squads, it really is difficult to see Bolivia causing any serious upsets. As shown against Argentina, the system used by Mauricio Soria has not been tuned to perfection, nowhere near it. Time after time through balls caused them problems, and they were tormented from wide areas. It doesn’t help that all of their group opponents are very proficient from the wings.
The likelihood is it will be a dissapointing tournament for Bolivians, but football is football, and in South America especially surprises are never too far away.