South American sides Argentina and Bolivia will face off in an international friendly Friday night at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
This match is the Albiceleste's first since they lost to Chile on penalties in the 2015 Copa America final. Head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino has named a strong squad that includes captain and superstar striker Lionel Messi, though some star names will be missing.
Argentina and Bolivia met in another friendly in June, with the hosts winning 5-0 in San Juan, Argentina. Angel Di Maria—who is not part of this Argentina squad—scored twice in that game, and Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick.
Both teams are preparing to begin the South American qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After another friendly against Mexico next week, Argentina will play qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay in October, while Bolivia will face Uruguay and Ecuador.
Here, B/R provides a preview of the game.
Who: Bolivia vs. Argentina
What: International friendly
When: Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: No live English-language broadcast in the UK, the U.S. or Canada
Martino has called Messi into his squad, giving the game some star power. According to Argentine newspaper Ole (via AS.com), the player considered taking a leave of absence in July after enduring a rash of criticism following the Copa America final. However, the 28-year-old has joined the team and is expected to wear the captain's armband.
"Messi does not hide and never shies away from criticism," Argentina midfielder/defender Javier Mascherano said, per Goal.com. "I would hate to be Messi. He is something very special. He keeps coming to the national team even when he is about to be a father."
Mascherano added: "We are football players who want to offer the most we can. We are honest and try to do it the best way."
Aguero and Carlos Tevez will give Argentina further offensive options, but Di Maria, a winger, has remained with new club Paris Saint-Germain following his recent transfer from Manchester United.
In addition, Argentina will play without Lucas Biglia, Pablo Zabaleta, Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Garay, who are injured. Forward Gonzalo Higuain pulled out of the team because of an illness.
Bolivia will play without goalkeeper Romel Quinonez, who has an injured hand.
Julio Cesar Baldivieso has taken over as head coach from Mauricio Soria, who guided La Verde to the 2015 Copa America quarterfinals.