Team Profile: Paraguay
- Coach: Gerardo Martino
- Goalkeepers: Justo Villa (Valladolid/Spain), Aldo Bobadilla (Independiente Medellin/Colombia), Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteno)
- Defenders: Julio Cesar Caceres (Atletico Mineiro/Brazil), Denis Caniza (Leon/Mexico), Dario Veron (Pumas/Mexico), Paulo Da Silva (Sunderland/England), Claudio Morel (Boca Juniors/Argentina), Carlos Bonet (Olimpia), Aureliano Torres (San Lorenzo/Argentina), Antolin Alcaraz (Brugge/Belgium)
- Midfielders: Cristian Riveros (Sunderland/England), Jonathan Santana (Wolfsburg/Germany), Enrique Vera (Liga de Quito/Ecuador), Victor Caceres (Libertad), Nestor Ortigoza (Argentinos Juniors/Argentina), Edgar Barreto (Atalanta/Italy).
- Forwards: Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City/England), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica/Portugal), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Borussia Dortmund/Germany), Rodolfo Gamarra (Libertad), Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dormund/Germany), Edgar Benitez (Pachuca/Paraguay)
Style of play: Gerardo Martinez uses a standard 4-4-2 formation, with a quartet of midfielders lined up straight across the middle. He'll often switch to a 3-5-2, with Dario Verion moving into the middle from his right-back position to give the attack more width and allow Cristian Riveros to cut in towards goal from the flank. In the 4-4-2 system, both fullbacks (Veron and Claudio Morel) plunge down the wings in attack. Martino will sometimes employ a 4-3-3, with Oscar Cardozo joining forwards Nelson Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz up front. As for the team's attacking philosophy, it will depend on the opponent. Against stronger sides, look for Paraguay to take a conservative approach by sitting back and soaking up the pressure before hitting out on the counterattack. Against weaker teams, players will be more adventurous and take initiative in attack.
1st round matches:
- June 14 vs. Italy in Cape Town
- June 20 vs. Slovakia in Bloemfontein
- June 24 vs. New Zealand in Polokwane
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Justo Villar - (D) Paulo da Silva, Julio Cesar Caceres, Claudio Morel, Dario Veron - (M) Cristian Riveros, Enrique Vera, Nestor Ortigoza, Edgar Barreto - (F) Nelson Valdez, Roque Santa Cruz
- Defence - Paraguay conceded a measly 16 goals in 18 games during the gruelling South American qualifiers, and posted impressive shutouts against Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Paulo da Silva and Julio Cesar Caceres anchor the back line, forming an effective defensive partnership.
- Coaching - Argentine Gerardo Martino is a tactically sharp manager who is able to inspire his players to play over their heads, as evidenced by Paraguay's shocking third-place finish in the South American qualifiers ahead of traditional powerhouse Argentina.
- Experience - Paraguay has competed in the past three World Cups, and several of the team's top players see regular first-team action for some of the biggest clubs in South America. They have enough experienced players to overcome any obstacles that will present themselves in South Africa.
- The loss of Cabanas - Salvador Cabanas was Paraguay's top scorer in the qualifiers with six goals, and scored crucial goals in big wins over Brazil and Chile. But the star striker was shot in the head in Mexico back in January, and even though he survived the attack and is on the road to recovery, he won't be in South Africa. How will Paraguay make do without its best striker?
- The Santa Cruz factor - With Cabanas out, it will be up to Roque Santa Cruz to lead the attack. But the Paraguayan star has never really lived up to his big reputation, especially at the past two World Cups, and is coming off an injury-plagued season with Manchester City.
- Tough group - Paraguay couldn't ask for a tougher opponent in its opening game, facing defending champions Italy in Cape Town. The South Americans will have little time to regroup, as their next game is against a tough Slovakia side. It could be that Paraguay is eliminated from contention by the time the team's third match, against New Zealand, rolls around.
Players to watch:
- Edgar Barreto - Barreto plays a number of roles as Paraguay's midfielder. When under pressure, he does whatever is necessary to win back possession, but when his countrymen tilt the field he can be seen running into the opponent's final third. Barreto's ceaseless running makes him elusive and aggravating.
- Paulo da Silva - A 10-year veteran of the national team, da Silva is a stalwart defender who anchors the back line from his position at the heart of the defence. He and Julio Cesar Caceres form one of the most effective central defensive pairings in South American soccer.
- Roque Santa Cruz - The Paraguayan is a tall, lanky striker with a deft scoring touch who is capable of burning opposing defenders with his sudden bursts of speed. Santa Cruz uses his height to great effect in the air, and combines physical strength with elegance and grace.
Key injuries/squad omissions: In a bit of a surprise, Osvaldo Martinez was left off Paraguay's final roster, his place taken by striker Rodolfo Gamarra. Also omitted were defenders Julio Manzur and Marcos Caceres; midfielders Sergio Aquino, Eduardo Ledesma and Marcelo Estigarribia; and striker Jorge Achucarro. Paraguay will also be without Salvador Cabanas.
Prognosis: First-round exit or second round. This is a tough one to call. Paraguay boasts a miserly defence and in Gerardo Martino, the team has a coach who always manages to get the best out of his players. But the team 's well-known struggles to score goals is a big problem, and Paraguay will be in big trouble if it finds itself trailing in a match and in need of a goal. If team members can continue to be tight at the back and manage to score the odd goal, they might slip past Slovakia for second place in Group F. Otherwise, they'll finish third.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #31
- Qualification route: Paraguay finished in third place (33 points) in the South American qualifiers behind Brazil (34 points) and Chile (33 points).
- Key to qualification: Balanced scoring. Paraguay scored 24 times in the qualifiers, but didn't rely on just one player to supply the goals. Instead, eight different players chipped in by finding the back of the net, including Salvador Cabanas and Nelson Valdez, who combined for 11 goals.
- Crucial result: A 1-0 win over Argentina (Sept. 9, 2009 in Asuncion) clinched a World Cup spot for Paraguay with two games left in the South American qualifiers.
- Qualifying record: 18 games played, 10 wins, 3 draws, 5 losses
- Goals for: 24
- Goals against: 16
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Salvador Cabanas (6)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Oct. 13, 2007 - Peru 0, Paraguay 0
- Oct. 17, 2007 - Paraguay 1, Uruguay 0
- Nov. 17, 2007 - Paraguay 5, Ecuador 1
- Nov. 21, 2007 - Chile 0, Paraguay 3
- June 15, 2008 - Paraguay 2, Brazil 0
- June 18, 2008 - Bolivia 4, Paraguay 2
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Argentina 1, Paraguay 1
- Sept. 9, 2008 - Paraguay 2, Venezuela 0
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Colombia 0, Paraguay 1
- Oct. 15, 2008 - Paraguay 1, Peru 0
- March 28, 2009 - Uruguay 2, Paraguay 0
- April 1, 2009 - Ecuador 1, Paraguay 1
- June 6, 2009 - Paraguay 0, Chile 2
- June 10, 2009 - Brazil 2, Paraguay 1
- Sept. 5, 2009 - Paraguay 1, Bolivia 0
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Paraguay 1, Argentina 0
- Oct 10, 2009 - Venezuela 1, Paraguay 2
- Oct. 14, 2009 - Paraguay 0, Colombia 2
PARAGUAY AT THE WORLD CUP
- Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 7
- All-time record: 22 games played, 6 wins, 7 draws, 9 losses
- Goals for: 27
- Goals against: 36
- Biggest victory: 3-1 vs. Nigeria in 1998 and 3-1 vs. Slovenia in 2002
- Biggest defeat: 7-3 vs. France in 1958.
- Overall top scorer: Nelson Cuevas (3 goals)
- Most appearances: Carlos Gamarra, Roberto Acuna and Denis Caniza (11 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930 - First Round
- 1934 - Did not enter
- 1938 - Did not enter
- 1950 - First Round
- 1954 - Did not qualify
- 1958 - First Round
- 1962 to 1982 - Did not qualify
- 1986 - Second Round
- 1990 - Did not qualify
- 1994 - Did not qualify
- 1998 - Second Round
- 2002 - Second Round
- 2006 - First Round
- FIFA member since: 1925
- Team nickname: La Albirroja
- All-time caps leader: Carlos Gamarra (110)
- All-time leading scorer: Jose Cardozo (25 goals)
- Copa America Champions: 1953, 1979
- Olympic Silver Medal: 2004
- South American Youth Champions: 1971
- Saturnino Arrua: A star striker for South American club Cerro Porteno in the 1970s. Arrua was the top goal scorer in Paraguay's first division three times and scored 13 goals for Paraguay in 26 games from 1969-80.
- Jose Luis Chilavert: Paraguay's long-serving goalkeeper, who was also renowned for scoring goals from free kicks. Chilavert played 74 times for Paraguay and scored an incredible eight goals in international play. He was voted South American player of the year in 1996.