Already-qualified Brazil aim to beat the altitude in Bolivia

Bolivia v Brazil, World Cup qualifier, October 11, 2009

Bolivia 16/5; Draw 11/4; Brazil 6/10

Having already reached South Africa, Dunga has the opportunity to try out players in Brazil’s final two matches, first against Bolivia and then at home to Venezuela.

The World Cup winning captain of 1994 is not taking things for granted and summed up the mood in the country: “Despite the fact we have already qualified, we’re Brazil and we have to win always.”

As is custom for a game in Bolivia, the pre-match prattle has centred on the high altitude that Brazil will have to face. Although the home side are second bottom of South American qualifying, they have a decent home record.

Most famously Bolivia beat Argentina 6-1 last April and they also recorded a 4-2 win over Paraguay in June 2008. Away from home Bolivia have been woeful, losing all their games, except one – a goalless draw with Brazil in Rio almost exactly a year ago.

Dunga’s side were struggling a little at that time and were recording a few draws against teams they would be expected to beat. Now it is a very different story as Brazil, at this early stage, look like one of the favourites to win the World Cup next summer. (Brazil are 5/1 second favourites for the World Cup.)

Luis Fabiano (13/2 to score a brace), with nine goals, is the top goal scorer in South American qualifying and is eager to add more goals to ensure he stays the number one striker on the continent. With the match being played 3,600 metres above sea level, Brazil will use a mixed team for this match to give players an opportunity to stake their claim for a trip to South Africa.

With injuries to defenders Lucio and Juan, Werder Bremen’s Naldo is expected to start whilst the current top goal scorer in Brazil, Diego Tardelli of Atletico Belo Horizonte (6/1 to score first), is another aiming to impress in La Paz.

Bolivia come into this match on the back of some inner turmoil. Last month the players’ union Fabol announced Bolivia’s international players were boycotting the national team indefinitely to demand reforms in the domestic game. This has since been called off after plans had been prepared for the home side to be represented by a youth team.

Their games against Brazil and then away at bottom side Peru are devoid of any meaning, bar avoiding the wooden spoon, so it is a little hard to predict which team will turn out. If, as seems likely, Bolivia’s players will be eager to claim a famous victory against Brazil, and perhaps further their own careers, there are some players that could do some damage.

Joaquin Botero famously scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 victory over Argentina and is also the top scorer in qualifying with eight goals. Ronald Garcia, of Aris Saloniki, is another who Brazil will have to be wary of, from his deep position in midfield.

There are an enormous amount of variables in this one but with Brazil playing some hungry players and with Bolivia left with nothing to play for, the high altitude may not play such a factor.

101gg predicts: Bolivia 1 – Brazil 3 (11/1)

Bolivia 16/5; Draw 11/4; Brazil 6/10

Full match odds here.