ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|Paraguay finished fourth in the Conmebol
league and occupied the final automatic qualification spot three points in front of Uruguay.
here for details
|Participations: (5) 1930, 1950,
1958, 1986 and 1998
|Best placing: Second round 1986 and
|Topscorers: Florencio Amarilla,
Jorgelino Romero, Juan Bautista Aguero, Jose Parodi, Julio Cesar Romero and
Roberto Cabanas, 2 goals
detailed history information
|José Luis Chilavert was huge
for Paraguay in the last World Cup, and will arrive in Korea/Japan to complete the mission
he failed to accomplish in 1998; becoming the first goalkeeper to score in a
World Cup match.
VERDICT: Through to KO stage
|Paraguay has emerged as South America's third best footballing
country over the last five years. We think they are even stronger now than four years ago when they pushed
hosts France to the limit. Now they also have better players up front which is vital. We fancy Paraguay
to go through from this group.
SAME AGAIN, PLEASE
by Matthew Monk
Of all the South American qualifiers, Cesare Maldini's
Paraguay must be happiest with the draw FIFA has given
them. Tucked away in the weaker Korean half of the
draw, placed in the same section as temperamental
Spain, imploding South Africa and tiny Slovenia,
Paraguay have another live chance to reach the last 16
of the World Cup. That is something they have managed
to achieve in their two previous appearances, and they
must be fancying their chances of doing it again this
summer. It is a shame it is not going to be as easy
as that then!
It may well be the dream draw on paper, but in reality
Group B could be one of the tightest sections in this
championship. If we count out South Africa (who seem
to be going backwards, and are not even capable of
beating Mali or Georgia) that still leaves three well
matched teams battling for only two places. Looking
on the bright side though, that is also the position
Paraguay were in four years ago - and they managed to
get through then. In France, Paraguay started off
with a dull nil-nil draw with Bulgaria, held the
Spanish in another very tight match, and then
bulldozered through Nigeria to qualify. The same
again would do very nicely, but lightning never
strikes twice, does it?
As is becoming quite usual now, Paraguay qualified
fairly comfortably from the massively long CONMEBOL
group, this time in fourth place but only behind
Brazil on goal difference. The country has a settled
squad of footballers - many of them exposed to regular
European football - and an experienced coach in
ex-Italy boss Cesare Maldini. As usual José-Luis
Chilavert is keeping goal and running the team. But
he is no longer the only Paraguayan player that most
people have heard of - now he has Roque Santa Cruz of
Bayern München, Carlos Gamarra of AEK Athens, Celso
Ayala of River Plate, José Cardoso of Toluca, Roberto
Acuña of Real Zaragoza and Carlos Paredes of FC Porto
to keep him company.
And they do combine well to make a solid, able team,
well capable of troubling the big boys this summer.
According to Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa,
Paraguay are the best team his side played in the
qualifiers - considering this includes Colombia,
Uruguay, Ecuador and Brazil, it is some commendation.
But all is not well in the Paraguayan team. First,
Paraguay have not won a match since September 2001,
and have been beaten by both Colombia and Venezuela in
the same period. Also, while a 2:2 draw with
Argentina in Asuncion is very creditable, a 1:1 draw
with a severely understrength Nigeria - and much more
recently - is not. During that game Paraguay
dominated for long periods, and took a deserved first
half lead. José-Luis Chilavert spent the whole first
half standing in his goal totally untroubled, and when
Carlos Gamarra scored, more goals should have been
expected. That they did not, and that Nigeria got
back into the game and could have won it, tells us
that there is more work for Maldini to do.
And of course he is also going to have to cope during
the first two games this summer without Chilavert, who
is suspended after spitting at Roberto Carlos. His
replacement, Ricardo Tavarelli, performed quite well
in the second half against the Nigerians, saving them
in the last minute. But given the weakness of the
opposition that night, and the worrying space his
defence allowed them to have, he is going to need a
lot of concentration this summer.
Against him he is going to find spirited and direct
attackers from South Africa, a skilful, wily genius
from Slovenia, and the combined force of Raul, Tristan
and Morientes from Spain. He does have some excellent
defenders (like Gamarra) to help him out, but should
Paraguay lose anyone else from their first choice
back-line they may well be in trouble.
Maybe for the first time in the World Cup, Paraguay
can be looking to score goals, and should feel
confident of doing just that in this group. Roque
Santa Cruz is the star striker of this team, and his
experience in winning the Champions League with Bayern
München will be priceless. He is going to be used to
facing the likes of Hierro, Guti, Helguera and Karanka
(who will probably be the players Paraguay have most
trouble scoring against) following Bayern's numerous
battles with Real Madrid in the last few years. And
even though he has not exactly been Bayern's major
attacking weapon in these games, he will bring with
him the tactical ideas of Ottmar Hitzfeld. And they
have certainly been successful in finding a way to
score against these players in the last few years.
Psychologically, he will be perceived as a threat,
even if he is not an actual menace on the field. That
is something Paraguay have never really had in the
past, and will be a big advantage.
OK then, with a decent defence, and a fair chance of
getting some goals at least, how far are Paraguay
going to go? They have a live chance of reaching the
last 16, but whether they can win this group is
another question. South Africa are simply making up
the numbers, but Slovenia and Spain are not that far
apart in terms of ability. Slovenia are unfancied -
indeed many people in Paraguay will have never even
heard of them or their players. But Slovenia have
something that Paraguay certainly do not have, and
something even the likes of Spain will struggle to
find someone to match. That is Zlatko Zahovic, the
mercurial, injury-plagued genius currently making his
magic for Benfica. If he hits form, he can destroy
any team. The question is though if he hits form -
that is not at all certain.
This is the crunch match for Paraguay, the final group
game in Seogwipo on June 12. Both teams are likely to
have beaten South Africa, but both cannot expect to
beat Spain (although with the Spanish you never know).
The winners here will reach the Second Round and,
just like 1998, Paraguay can do it. Whether they
will or not is much less certain. You will have to
make your own minds up - or just wait and see!
Looking ahead, Paraguay would then face Germany,
Ireland or Cameroon for a place in the quarter final -
you could see them sneaking through again, but you
would not want to bet on it.
So a third time in the Second Round, in only three
attempts. That is superb form from such a small,
underdeveloped country. Paraguay are going the right
way. Under Maldini they have shown good form, but are
yet to really catch fire. It could happen at the
World Cup. But you get the idea that most Paraguay
fans are just happy to be there, and would happily
take the same as 1998. You have to wish them well.
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
Paraguay have participated in five World Cups and were one of
thirteen countries who took part in the very first tournament in Uruguay 1930. They didn’t
progress from the group stage there, but managed a win over Belgium. Paraguay - like most
other South American teams - didn’t travel to Europe for the two tournaments before World
War II, but were present again in Brazil 1950 which ended in another first round exit for
them. They made it to the Sweden World Cup 1958, where yet another first round
elimination followed, before disappearing from the spotlight of world football for nearly thirty
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico saw Paraguay progress to the second round for the first
time ever. Their goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez made a last-minute penalty save against
Mexico’s superstar Hugo Sanchez to deny the hosts a win which set up Paraguay for a
second round game with England. Lineker led England to a comfortable win, but Paraguay
had made their best tournament ever.
The feat was emulated twelve years later in France when Paraguay next time qualified and
once again the goalkeeper was the hero. Jose Luis Chilavert kept his team in the game for
almost two hours against France with a string of great saves, but Laurent Blanc scored the
winner minutes from time. Paraguay was just as in 1986 unbeaten in the first round group
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