Lionel Messi: As the Argentina squad touched down in La Paz, Bolivia, ahead of their second 2026 World Cup qualifier, keen-eyed fans couldn’t help but notice an unusual item carried by Lionel Messi and his fellow teammates.
The reigning world champions commenced their qualification journey with a 1-0 victory against Ecuador, courtesy of Messi’s second-half free-kick. Securing a win at the beginning of their campaign was essential as they aimed to defend their title in the United States of America, Mexico, and Canada, following their triumph in Qatar the previous year.
Players captured with oxygen tubes
The Argentine national team, commonly known as La Albiceleste, embarked on their journey to Bolivia in their attire, equipped with water bottles and tea flasks. However, this time, they included an additional item – mini oxygen canisters, which fans noticed. Players such as Alexis Mac Allister, Cuti Romero, and Nicolas Otamendi were captured carrying these devices as they disembarked from the team bus in La Paz.
Bolivia presents an added challenge due to its extremely high altitude, reaching approximately 11,942 feet above sea level. This altitude can lead to altitude sickness, especially for individuals not accustomed to such conditions. The mini oxygen canisters carried by the players are intended to assist in providing oxygen and aiding their survival to the high altitude. A similar need for oxygen was noted by Brazil’s national team players after their 0-0 draw in La Paz back in 2017.
What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness encompasses a range of symptoms that can manifest when a person goes to higher altitudes too rapidly, with the severity of symptoms varying from mild to potentially life-threatening. These symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbances. For active football players, these symptoms can be particularly concerning and impact their performance on the field.