Thirteen years on from their last appearance at a FIFA World Cup™, Bolivia embarked on a new campaign last October with hopes of at least competing for the region's play-off berth.
Much of the optimism stemmed from the appointment as coach of Erwin 'Platini' Sanchez, the former attacking midfielder who had the distinction of scoring Bolivia's only goal during their last appearance at football's premier competition, at USA 94. And while some commendable performances under the new incumbent have given grounds for cautious optimism, home supporters have seen false dawns before and need no reminding that Sanchez's men are yet to win an official game and are currently last in the qualifying table.
Read on as FIFA.com takes a closer look at how Bolivia have fared in the opening phase of the regional qualifiers for South Africa 2010.
Uruguay 5-0 Bolivia
Bolivia 0-0 Colombia
Argentina 3-0 Bolivia
Venezuela 5-3 Bolivia
*Overview * Despite only accruing one point from a possible 12, Bolivia have shown considerable character to bounce back from the demoralizing drubbing handed to them by Uruguay on matchday 1.
Sanchez's side, with several players who had not been in the squad for the trip to Montevideo, then had Colombia on the ropes in their second game in La Paz and came close to securing all three points. Indeed, only some inspired goalkeeping from Agustin Julio coupled with some wayward finishing of their own denied Bolivia what would have been an invaluable victory.
Points to prove
Throughout their history, Bolivia's Achilles' Heel has always been their poor away form. There has been no sign of this changing in the current campaign, the Andean nation losing all three of their away games thus far, conceding 13 goals and scoring just 3 in the process.
Without doubt, this frailty will need to be addressed, along with their porous defending, if they aim to make up ground during the middle phase of the campaign. With the match calendar scheduling their next two games in front of home supporters at the Estadio Hernando Siles, the team at least have a chance to build some momentum.
Venezuela 5-3 Bolivia
Goals: (Venezuela) Daniel Arismendi (20' and 40'), Alejandro Guerra (82'), Giancarlo Maldonado (87' and 89'); (Bolivia) Marcelo Martins (19' and 78') and Juan Carlos Arce (27').
Ironically, Bolivia's best performance of the qualifiers so far came in their away defeat to Venezuela. On November 20 Sanchez's side travelled to San Cristobal for their fourth game of the campaign, where they were within 12 minutes of recording a notable win over the Vinotintos. However, a combination of defensive errors and nerves worked against them, and the home side ran in three late goals for a dramatic 5-3 win. That said, his side's spirited performance, allied with a particularly fine display by two-goal hero Marcelo Martins, would seem to indicate the way forward for Sanchez.
Once again, Bolivia are not short of leaders out on the pitch, with Ronald Raldes valiantly trying to orchestrate things at the back, Joselito Vaca adding a touch of control and vision in midfield and Luis Ribeiro getting forward to assist whenever possible. Moreover, the impact made by Cruzeiro's Marcelo Martins against Venezuela suggests that the 20-year-old could be just the man needed up front.
966: The number of days between Bolivia's last win in a FIFA World Cup qualifier and their most recent outing, the 5-3 defeat against Venezuela. They last tasted victory on 29 March 2005 in La Paz against the selfsame Vinotinto, winning 3-1.
"Contrary to what the results may suggest, apart from Uruguay, no one had it easy against us. We deserved better luck against Colombia, resisted quite well against Argentina and only succumbed late on against Venezuela. Now it's vital we win our home games to keep our hopes alive," Carlos Arias, Bolivia goalkeeper