Edgardo Bauza’s side are third in the South American qualifying section after defeat in the world's highest capital, with their place at the finals in Russia remaining very much in the balance after a meek display.
Argentina had not won at the Estadio Hernando Siles in the past 12 years prior to this meeting, and to make matters worse, they were without captain Messi, who had been banned from their next four competitive internationals, including Tuesday's clash, for swearing at a match official.
he decision was announced less than six hours before kick-off of the match in La Paz and means that the five-times world player of the year will play in only one of Argentina's remaining five World Cup qualifiers.
In his absence, La Albiceleste could not get going, created very little, and were comfortable outplayed by a team second bottom of the CONMEBOL standings. Arce's well-taken header and Moreno's emphatic finish were enough for the men in green to secure all three points.
It remains to be seen just how much of an effect this defeat will have on Argentina. One thing's for sure, their chances of missing a first World Cup since 1970 got a whole lot more realistic.
Would Messi have even made a difference? We are used to see superhuman efforts from Lionel Messi over the years, but should he have taken to the field in La Paz, would his team-mates have been able to rouse more of a performance than they did muster so high above sea level? There is only so much you can blame on conditions, of course, but they clearly took their toll on the visitors. There was still enough Argentina talent on the pitch to cause more problems than they did.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pablo Escobar. Not quite as menacing as his namesake, Escobar ran Argentina ragged at times, and defied his 38 years to put in a stellar showing in La Paz. His cross for the opening goal was perfect, but his tireless running ensured he was never too far from the action.
Bolivia: Lampe 7, Chumacero 6, Arce 8, Bejarano 6, Moreno 8, Castro 7, Raldes 6, Wayar 6, Flores 6, Escobar 8, Zentreno.. Subs: Justiniano 6.
Argentina: Romero 6, Roncaglia 5, Musacchio 5, Funes Mori 5, Rojo 5, Perez 3, Pizarro 5, Banega 6, Di Maria 6, Correa 3, Pratto 4… Subs: Caruzzo 5, Aguero 5, Acuna 5.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Argentina minus Messi slump to shock defeat in Bolivia