Thursday 21 March 2024, 15:20

Growth through competing the objective for Bolivia in FIFA Series 2024™

  • Bolivia kick off their FIFA Series Algeria™ campaign against the hosts this Friday 22 in Algiers

  • Three days later, La Verde face Andorra in Annaba

  • Bolivia’s coach and goalkeeper explain importance of these inter-confederation friendlies for the team

Bolivia’s Brazilian head coach Antonio Carlos Zago was unambiguous when asked what it meant for Bolivia to take on hosts Algeria and Andorra in the pilot phase of the FIFA Series 2024™.

"International matches are vital if you want to be competitive. We don't have a very strong league in Bolivia, so national team competitions, as well as the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana, are crucial for the clubs," Zago, who took up the reins last October, told FIFA.

"We’re in the process of developing Bolivian football, which is why the chance to face African and European opposition here in Algeria is such a great opportunity. It's fundamental for our preparation for the Copa America (2024) and the qualifiers (for the FIFA World Cup 26™)," added the 55-year-old.

Bolivia currently lie second from bottom in CONMEBOL’s ten-team qualifying group, which awards six direct berths to the next World Cup. With just three points from a possible 18, which they garnered since Zago’s arrival, they are only two points behind 7th-placed Paraguay, who presently occupy the play-off spot.

"The main objective is for the Bolivian people to be able to dream of reaching the World Cup, and then to actually qualify for it. We're working hard to make that happen. Bolivia haven't taken part in a World Cup for 30 years, so maybe we can put that right at the next one," he said.

Bolivia's Brazilian coach Antonio Zago gestures during the 2026 FIFA World Cup South American qualifiers

With that in mind, Zago’s squad in Algeria has an average age of just 26 years and three months and contains eight U-23 players, six of whom played in the 2024 CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament. Asked about this strategy, the coach says the aim is “to focus mainly on developing the young players with whom we competed so well in the Olympic qualifiers".

Thus, he believes the launch of the FIFA Series is immensely significant. "It's a very important initiative on the part of FIFA, to want to bring different confederations together," said the coach, who enjoyed a 16-year playing career in Brazil, Spain, Japan and Turkey.

"The players are motivated, and so are we. We'll strive to do well, so we can play in other ones (FIFA Series) later on. It's important for Bolivian football, and we hope to have other opportunities in the coming years."

Viscarra: "It's going to help us a lot"

Guillermo Viscarra, who’s been Bolivia's first choice goalkeeper since the start of World Cup 26 qualifying, was also happy to talk about his team's participation in the FIFA Series. "We’re delighted to be part of the first edition and hope to put on a good show for the people at the stadium and all those watching from home," said the 31-year-old from the team’s base in Algeria.

This proud wearer of the No1 jersey for The Strongest, one of his country’s leading clubs, is clear about the team’s objectives in Algeria. "We’ve been preparing for this year’s Copa America and the resumption of World Cup qualifying, so we consider that, with this being a FIFA organised series, we need to approach it the same way we plan to approach those other games. It's therefore important for us to get results here and gain confidence."

Enner Valencia of Ecuador battles for possession with Guillermo Viscarra of Bolivia

Viscarra pointed out that "Bolivia has not been to Africa for many years", and "getting the chance to play against teams from other continents will help us a lot. It's a new experience and we'll try to make the most of it. We'll see what we find and what level we're at," added the goalkeeper, who enjoyed a brief stint in Israeli football in 2018.

The Santa Cruz native believes that the FIFA Series will make a "great contribution" to the development of football and is embracing the whole experience. "A friendly series organised by FIFA is different from one that is not. The conditions are different, and you have that official match atmosphere, which is how we players see it. We know everyone will be watching."

Consequently, Viscarra hopes that "FIFA will continue to support football with this type of initiative, which offers (players) a great deal, both personally and professionally".

Football Development