Having enjoyed their most successful period more than a decade ago, Bolivia continue to struggle to reassert themselves on the South American scene. Poor results, a revolving-door coaching policy and a lack of new talent coming through the ranks have seen the Bolivians fail in their last three attempts to reach a fourth FIFA World Cup finals.
The last time
La Verde appeared on world football's biggest stage,
back at USA 1994, they pushed defending champions Germany all the
way in the Opening Match, a solitary Jurgen Klinsmann strike the
difference between the teams. A 0-0 draw against Korea Republic was
then followed by a 3-1 reverse against Spain, the Bolivians clearly
missing key man Luis Cristaldo, sent off against the Taeguk
Warriors. Their North American adventure may have come to a
premature end, but the team's performances hinted at a
promising future for Bolivian football.
Despite not making it past the first round, the results were a clear improvement on the national team's previous finals' appearances. At Brazil 1950, their only contribution was an 8-0 hammering at the hands of a magnificent Uruguay side on their way to a second world crown. Nor did things go much better at Uruguay 1930, Yugoslavia and Brazil helping themselves to comfortable 4-0 wins.
As regards their FIFA World Cup Qualifying record, La Verde have singularly failed to build on the promise shown at USA 1994. In the qualifiers for France 1998, Bolivia finished ninth in the ten team South American Zone, and only seventh ahead of Korea/Japan 2002. And the less said about the Germany 2006 campaign the better, coaches Nelson Acosta, Ramiro Blacut and Ovidio Messa all came and went, the trio accumulating 12 defeats, two draws and just four wins between them.
That dismal record saw Bolivia finish rock-bottom of the qualifying table, four points behind both Venezuela and Peru. Now with national legend Erwin 'Platini' Sanchez at the helm, the Andean outfit are hoping to recover the form that once made them feared opponents, particularly at home. Unfortunately, results at the Copa America 2007 in Venezuela were less than encouraging, Sanchez's charges heading home after the first round. The prize, should the former Benfica and Boavista star manage to engineer a spectacular turnaround, could well be a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Although their start has not been encouraging with no wins from four games, hopes of a return to the finals are still alive in La Paz.