Maradona bids to avoid another altitude trap

QUITO, June 9 - Argentina, beaten 6-1 by Bolivia at 3,600 metres above sea level in April (pictured), face another high altitude World Cup qualifier in Ecuador on Wednesday.

Coach Diego Maradona appeared to underestimate the effects of altitude as he faced Bolivia with almost the same team which had played another match only four days earlier.

His side crashed to their heaviest defeat in 15 years and Lionel Messi was among players who admitted afterwards that he could not cope with the conditions.

The failings of Maradona's team were put into perspective on Saturday when Venezuela beat Bolivia 1-0 in La Paz after making painstaking preparations which included three weeks' training at altitude.

Quito, at 2,800 metres, is not as extreme as La Paz but, unlike Bolivia, Ecuador have qualified for the last two World Cups and are still in the hunt for a place in South Africa.

The top four in the 10-team South American group qualify directly for South Africa and the fifth play off against the fourth side from CONCACAF.

Argentina, who beat Colombia 1-0 win an unconvincing display, are fourth with 22 points from 13 games and have a five-point cushion over Uruguay and Ecuador, who have 17 each.

Maradona has said that he will be less adventurous this time and will make changes to the team.

"We're going to have to take refuge and play on the counter-attack," he said.

Captain Javier Mascherano is suspended while forward Sergio Aguero is injured.

Maradona may also rest Messi to avoid the risk of him picking up a second yellow card which would rule him out of the following game at home to Brazil in September.

Ecuador's regular pair of central defenders Giovanny Espinoza and Ivan Hurtado are available after sitting out Sunday's 2-1 win over Peru through suspension, the first time since 2000 that both have missed a competitive international.

Midfielder Antonio Valencia and striker Felipe Caicedo are also set to return.

Ecuador: Marcelo Elizaga; Neicer Reasco, Giovanny Espinoza, Ivan Hurtado, Walter Ayovi; Segundo Castillo, Edison Mendez, Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Montero; Felipe Caicedo, Carlos Tenorio

Argentina: Mariano Andujar; Javier Zanetti, Martin Demichelis, Gabriel Heinze, Emiliano Papa; Fernando Gago, Juan Sebastian Veron, Maxi Rodriguez, Jonas Gutierrez; Lisandro Lopez, Carlos Tevez

Referee: Carlos Chandia (Chile)