Bolivians upset with Brazil coach over altitude comment

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil coach Tite complained about playing a World Cup qualifier in the altitude of Bolivian capital La Paz and is now under fire from the host country.

Brazil traveled to Bolivia for a match that had no bearing on the World Cup aspirations of either team — the visitors had already secured their spot in Qatar and the hosts were playing for pride.

Tite said ahead of the match that his team would be less aggressive because soccer at more than 3,600 meters (almost 12,000 feet) of altitude in La Paz is too harsh.

“We won’t have such a vertical team as in previous matches because we can’t. It is inhuman, there’s not such a possibility,” Tite said. “Of course we can’t play with the same pace, same speed we have at home matches or in regular circumstances.”

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales was one of the critics of the Brazilian coach, saying he rejects the “inhuman” description for matches where “millions of people live.”

“Greatness is found in words, that is why we remember the great Diego Armando Maradona, who once said we have to play where we were born,” Morales posted on social media ahead of Tuesday’s match.

Marco Etcheverry, a former Bolivia forward who played in the 1994 World Cup, also criticized Tite.

“To speak about the altitude when they are already in the World Cup … that’s cowardly,” Etcheverry said. “That troubled me a lot.”

Brazil won 4-0 despite fielding a below-strength team missing the suspended Neymar and Vinicius Jr.

Lucas Paquetá opened the scoring in the 24th minute, Richarlison added the second just before halftime. Bruno Guimarães made it 3-0 in the 66th and Richarlison appeared once again to score from close range in stoppage time.

Players from Brazil and Bolivia did not comment the issue.

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