Ranked 30th in the world, Paraguay are outsiders for South Africa 2010. Despite their low world ranking, Paraguay have been to the World Cup on eight previous occasions and made it to the second round three times during their history in the tournament. It would be impossible to preview Paraguay’s chances for this World Cup without mentioning the tragedy that stuck their squad in January, when star man, Salvador Cabanas (Club America) was shot outside a bar in Mexico City. Thankfully, Cabanas is now recovering. But Paraguay’s hopes for the tournament are certainly dented without their leading scorer. In his place, talented forward Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) will be hoping to put a season of injury behind him and help La Albirroja to a successful tournament at South Africa 2010.
The Paraguayan national team is famed for its strong defenders and tight midfield play, but Argentine Coach Gerardo Martino is an attack-minded tactician who likes his teams to score plenty of goals, and there is certainly no shortage of attacking threats in this Paraguay team. Borrusia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios had a phenomenal season in the Bundesliga, scoring 23 goals, with Dortmund support striker and fellow Paraguayan forward Nelson Haedo Valdez providing plenty of assists. A strong contribution from the German-based pair will be essential to Paraguay’s success in South Africa, especially if Roque Santa Cruz cannot recover from an awful season in England’s Premier League. At the back, Paraguay has a wealth of experience, with their defensive line-up dominated by players over 30 years of age. Team Captain, Denis Caniza (Leon) is a veteran of three World Cups, and with 96 caps to his name his influence will be immensely important for Gerardo Martino’s men.
The main weakness in the Paraguayan national side in recent years has been their inability to perform to their abilities in the big competitions. Second place in Group F is certainly not beyond them, but history says that Paraguay will fall early in the tournament. If they’re not careful defensively, they could find themselves out at the group stages where the face World Cup holders Italy as well as an under-rated Slovakia and probable group whipping-boys, New Zealand. The key game for Paraguay will be their second game in the group against Slovakia. The winner of that game will decide who gets second place in the group. Bookmakers seem to favor Paraguay to come second, but their lack of focus when it comes to match time could prove to be their undoing during South Africa 2010.
Prediction: 3rd in Group F.