BUENOS AIRES, March 20 (Reuters) - Argentina’s players, who have been arriving in Buenos Aires for World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia, are sticking to a decision dating back to November not to talk to the media.
Captain Lionel Messi, set to arrive on Tuesday with Barcelona team mate Javier Mascherano, will be picked up on the runway by a car that will whisk him off to the nearby Argentine FA training complex thereby avoiding reporters.
The squad were upset by a report in November that Ezequiel Lavezzi had been smoking marijuana at the complex where Argentina were preparing for a home tie against Colombia in San Juan.
After the 3-0 victory on Nov. 15, Messi read a statement to the media at a news conference attended by the whole squad in which they said they would not speak to reporters until further notice.
Argentina meet Chile at the River Plate stadium on Thursday in a match they must win to climb into the top four qualifying berths in the 10-nation South American group.
They are currently fifth on 19 points, a placing that would put them in an intercontinental playoff for a berth at the 2018 finals in Russia, a point behind Copa America holders Chile and Ecuador. Brazil are top on 27 and Uruguay second with 23.
Five days after the Chile game, Argentina visit second-bottom Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz where they have not won since 2005. They crashed to a 6-1 defeat under former coach Diego Maradona in 2009 but managed a 1-1 draw in 2013.
Argentina's Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is injured and will miss both matches, while their Juventus striker Paulo Dybala is doubtful with a right leg injury, the AFA said. (Reporting by Rex Gowar; editing by Ken Ferris)