An already qualified Brazil played to a 0-0 draw with already eliminated Bolivia at the legendary Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz on Thursday, something of a complete non story. But not when the gregariously self-entitled Neymar is involved!
Likely frustrated by an inability to find the breakthrough despite registering nine shots or maybe peeved at being fouled seven times, Neymar took to Instagram to rage at a stadium that’s been open since 1931 and been the scourge of all South American opponents ever since.
“Inhuman to play in such conditions. Pitch, altitude, ball…everything bad,” he wrote before adding “But we’re happy with the performance of the team even with these conditions!”
Neymar’s statement stands in stark contrast to fellow attacker Gabriel Jesus, who said: “I felt a little tired — it’s normal. (It’s the) first time I played in altitude like this. To feel it, it’s normal. We managed to play, set the rhythm. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go in today.
“It’s (time) to rest so that in the next games we can play another good game and score goals. Physically it takes a lot. Possession of the ball is in relation to the field. That wasn’t nice, but we can’t complain. It’s to enter the field and play, to confront problems.”
Obviously Neymar didn’t get that message.
Hernando Siles has long been a fortress for Bolivia. Over the course of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifying campaigns, Bolivia compiled ten home wins and eight draws as compared to only two draws and no wins on the road. The stadium has been a particular bogey for Brazil. They handed Brazil their first qualifying defeat in 40 years back in 1993, and they also defeated the Seleção there in the 2010 qualifying cycle. This is all just to say that it’s nothing new.
This 11,932-foot advantage was even contested by FIFA back in 2007 when it was deemed both unfair and a health hazard, resulting in a ban on matches played above 8,200 feet.
With the ruling affecting matches in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico, considerable outrage over what was deemed discrimination against Latin America’s high-altitude nations led to FIFA overturning the ruling a year later.
“He who wins at altitude, wins with dignity,” said Bolivian president Evo Morales. “He who fears altitude has no dignity.”