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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Cash-strapped Bolivia face struggle
By Tim Vickery

All 10 South American nations are busy playing international friendlies - hardly surprising since it is less than six months to the start of the next set of World Cup qualifiers.

Bolivia fans have not had much to cheer about
Bolivia fans could face a bleak future
Even Bolivia are in action, and they are currently without a coach.

Bolivia travel to take on Portugal on Tuesday, and the suspicion is that they have been hand-picked to provide the hosts with a morale-boosting win.

A year ago, Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge of his native Brazil.

After a dismal qualification campaign, Brazil began their World Cup warm-up programme by regaining their confidence with a 6-0 thumping of Bolivia.

And now Scolari is looking for a similar kick-start on the way to Euro 2004.

When the contract for Tuesday's game was signed, Bolivia expected to have sorted out their coaching vacancy in time to face the Portuguese.

Their optimism proved misplaced, but even so they decided not to call the game off.

Stand-in coach Dalcio Giovagnoli was appointed for this game only.

After much bickering, and the refusal of some major clubs to release their players, he managed to assemble a squad of 18 to take to Portugal.

The Bolivian FA badly needs the match fee.

The absence of money helps explain why Bolivia are so far behind the rest of South America in their preparation for the World Cup qualifiers.

Bolivia is the poorest country in the continent.

The FA has yet to find a buyer for the TV rights to the qualifying games and is looking for help from the government.

And in the meantime it is saving money by not having a coach on the payroll.

That could look very much like a false economy when the competitive games get going and Bolivia are pitted against opponents who are better - and better prepared.

Former Bolivia coach Carlos Trucco
Trucco left the Bolivia job for better money in Mexico
The original choice to coach the side was former national team goalkeeper Carlos Trucco, who was in charge at the end of the last qualifying campaign.

His salary was to be a mere $5,000 a month. So he played for time, did not sign the contract and waited until a Mexican club came in and offered him nearly 20 times more.

Ever since then the administrators have been split.

Should they appoint a Bolivian coach, or look for a foreigner?

Both are problematic. A local coach would come cheaper, but may not be the best option from a technical point of view.

An experienced foreign coach would represent competence and credibility, but might prove too costly - and with every passing day is running out of time to get to know the country and its players.

Former Chile coach Nelson Acosta
Acosta could be out of the Bolivian FA's price range
The latest in the frame is the Uruguayan-born Nelson Acosta, who took Chile to the 1998 World Cup.

Acosta has reportedly asked for $30,000 a month and the Bolivian FA is trying to persuade him to reduce his demands by half.

Acosta is a wily old fox who has been doing some fine work in Chile with the Cobreloa club.

He would be an excellent choice for Bolivia. But even in ideal circumstances he or anyone else would struggle to take Bolivia all the way to the 2006 World Cup.

And with the qualifiers looming ever nearer and Bolivian football still in chaos, these are emphatically not ideal circumstances.

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