Wednesday, July 25, 2012

25 July 1993 - Height Has Its Advantages

On 25 July 1993, Bolivia handed Brazil their first-ever World Cup qualification defeat, beating them 2-0 in La Paz.

Bolivia had, to that point, only participated in two World Cups (1930 and 1950), while Brazil had already won three of them (1958, 1962, 1970). And the Brazilians had never lost a World Cup qualifier since FIFA instituted them for the 1934 tournament (though they did not play first one until 1954, having qualified automatically for the 1934, 1938, and 1950 World Cups).

For the 1994 campaign, they met Bolivia at the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz. Situated 11,932 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest professional stadiums in the world. A crowd of 42,611 gathered for the match, which remained scoreless until the last few minutes.

In the 88th minute, Bolivian midfielder Marco Etcheverry (pictured) took control of the ball near the midfield stripe, then raced down the left channel all the way to the goal line, holding off pressure from a couple of Brazilian defenders. He fired the ball across the face of the goal, where it struck the leg of goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel and deflected into the net.

Brazil sent players forward in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer, but Bolivia used the space in the back to double their lead. Etcheverry sent the ball forward to substitute striker Álvaro Peña, who beat Taffarel with a side-footed shot from the edge of the six-yard box to cap the 2-0 victory.

Both teams eventually qualified for the tournament, with Brazil capturing their fourth title while Bolivia exited in the first round.

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