By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Thursday, October 5th, a herculean effort from Bolivian keeper Carlos Lampe kept Brazil off the scoreboard for the second straight game as the seleção and Bolivia battled to a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia.
By all outward appearances, Brazil had little to play for in last night’s World Cup qualifier as the club already punched their ticket to Russia World Cup 2018 back in March.
However, based on coach Tite fielding one of the club’s strongest lineups last night, including Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, and Dani Alves, it was clear the team would not be taking its foot off the gas.
Tite still had an unbeaten record to protect, though the seleção did finally see their nine-game winning streak come to an end with a 1-1 draw in Colombia in its last game on September 5th.
Also, several reports indicated that the high-altitude environment may have been one of Tite’s chief concerns, adding to the fact that Brazil had not won a World Cup qualifier in Bolivia since 1985.
In contrast, despite having already been eliminated from South American qualifiers, Bolivia entered last night’s game having won three of their last three qualifiers on home soil.
The Bolivian keeper’s heroics would begin early last night. About midway through the first, Neymar launched a rocket from just beyond the goal area that was blocked by the 6’4″ Lampe with a superb diving save.
Moments later, Lampe produced another stunning block on Neymar who unleashed a fierce shot from close range that sent the keeper tumbling backward as he made the block.
Gabriel Jesus had a point-blank shot of his own only minutes later. But, Lampe would once again come up big, this time blocking the shot with his face, a move that sent the keeper to the ground writhing in pain for several minutes.
As the first half was nearing its end, a remarkable sequence saw Neymar blocked twice by Bolivian defender Gabriel Valverde.
The sequence began when Lampe was forced to come out of goal to check the onrushing Paris Saint-Germain superstar. Neymar easily danced around the keeper and let loose a tremendous shot.
An alert Valverde was in goal to block Neymar who quickly pounced on his own rebound, recovered his balance and got off another shot that was again cleared by Valverde.
Despite being on their heels most of the half, Bolivia almost took the lead right as the half ended when Diego Bejarano’s long-range laser beam just scraped the underside of the crossbar only to bounce out.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Lampe and Bolivia’s defense continued to maintain its form and frustrate Brazil.
Lampe would rescue Bolivia several more times in the second half, notably a huge block on Jesus’ header in the 83rd minute that would seal the 0-0 draw.
‘We created lots of chances but the goalkeeper had a great afternoon,” exclaimed Brazil’s captain for the day Casemiro after the match, “he deserves our congratulations.”
Both clubs maintain their positions in the standings following the draw. Brazil, already guaranteed to finish atop the South American group, lead the way with 38 points. Bolivia is second from the bottom, in ninth place with 14 points.
Next, the seleção travels to São Paulo, where, next Tuesday, October 10th, they will close the Russia World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign against Chile.