Population: 5,700,000
Area: 406,750 km²
Capital: Asuncion
Language: Spanish

Paraguay finished fourth in the Conmebol league and occupied the final automatic qualification spot three points in front of Uruguay.
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Participations: (5) 1930, 1950, 1958, 1986 and 1998
Best placing: Second round 1986 and 1998
Topscorers: Florencio Amarilla, Jorgelino Romero, Juan Bautista Aguero, Jose Parodi, Julio Cesar Romero and Roberto Cabanas, 2 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 02 - PAR v RSA  in Busan
Jun 07 - PAR v SPA  in Jeonju
Jun 12 - PAR v SLO  in Seogwipo

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.

WCA 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.


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.


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 years.

    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 stage.




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