Argentina expected a struggle in the altitude of La Paz. The World Cup champion’s climb appeared even steeper with Lionel Messi out of the line-up.
Argentina still beat Bolivia 3-0 on Tuesday in their second match of the qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup.
Angel Di Maria took over as captain in Messi’s absence and shone, providing two assists before half-time.
Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez made it 1-0 after half an hour when he met Di Maria’s cross with a close-range finish to score his third international goal.
Bolivia were dealt another blow five minutes later as they were reduced to 10 men after Roberto Fernandez was given a red card for an ugly tackle on Cristian Romero.
Nicolas Tagliafico doubled the lead with a header from a Di Maria free-kick in the 42nd minute, before Nicolas Gonzalez’s powerful strike sealed the win in the 83rd.
Messi applauded the goals from the bench in a stadium where 14 years ago he saw Argentina get hammered by the hosts by 6-1.
Brazil made it two wins from two in qualifying after a late goal from Marquinhos earned them a 1-0 win over Peru in Lima. Brazil moved level on six points with rivals Argentina at the top of the South American qualifying standings.