Population: 6,300,000
Area: 406,750 km²
Capital: Asuncion
Language: Spanish

Just like in 2002, Paraguay finished fourth in the Conmebol league and occupied the final automatic qualification spot three points in front of Uruguay.
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Mar 01 Wales v Paraguay 0-0
Mar 30 Mexico v Paraguay 2-1
May 24 Norway v Paraguay 2-2
May 27 Denmark v Paraguay 1-1
May 31 Georgia v Paraguay 0-1
Jun 03 Georgia v Paraguay

Participations: (6) 1930, 1950, 1958, 1986, 1998 and 2002
Best placing: Second round 1986, 1998 and 2002
Topscorers: Florencio Amarilla, Jorgelino Romero, Juan Bautista Aguero, Jose Parodi, Julio Cesar Romero, Roberto Cabanas and Nelson Cuevas, 2 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 10 - PAR v ENG  in Frankfurt
Jun 15 - PAR v SWE  in Berlin
Jun 20 - PAR v TRI  in Kaiserslautern

- Paraguay in Group B -
Jan Alsos: 3rd place
Pierre Boisrond: 2nd place
Ruud Doevendans: 3rd place
Mike Gibbons: 3rd place
Peter Goldstein: 2nd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 3rd place
Felipe Santos: 3rd place
PREDICTION: First round exit


by Jan Alsos

    Paraguay have in recent years established themselves as South America's third best team after the perennial giants Brazil and Argentina. The Albirroja can boast solid results at the previous two World Cups - beaten by France in '98 and Germany in '02 - both in close second round encounters. Coach Anibal Ruiz and his men are determined to go even further than the last 16 this summer and he has every right to be confident. Paraguayan football is still on the rise and another peak was reached when the team won silver medals at the Athens Olympics 2004. A number of players who took part there will be on display in Germany as well.

    Paraguay are outsiders in this group with England, Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago and well capable of occupying one of the top two spots to the second round. They will play against their opponents in that particular order as well, which Ruiz was very satisfied with.

    The team members are stationed daily in Mexico, Europe and of course South America - a number of them in excellent clubs. Paraguay, like most other countries, is exporting players to strong leagues and they bring back knowledge and experience of great value to the national team. Several of the stars are fittingly enough playing for German clubs, so there will be more familiar surroundings for Paraguay's key players this time than in previous World Cups.

    Anibal Ruiz, born in Uruguay, favours a zonal 4-4-2 system and has clear views about how he wants his team to act on the field: Possession style, ball on the ground, width and penetration are key elements in his gameplan for the World Cup. In his own words he wants "football that is easy on the eye". Ruiz has been in charge of Paraguay ever since Cesare Maldini stepped down after the last World Cup four years ago, so he has had plenty of time to put his mark on the team. The World Cup will be his exam.

    Justo Villar (Newell's Old Boys) should be the goalkeeper, his position has not been threatened for some time. To succeed a flamboyant legend like Jose Luis Chilavert is a massive job in itself, and even though Villar doesn't have the same charimastic personality and goalscoring abilities(!), he certainly is a solid choice between the pipes.

    In defence, Ruiz will count on Carlos Gamarra (Palmeiras), now 35, to lead the troops. This year will be his third World Cup and with more than a century of caps under his belt, people will look to him for guidance. Gamarra is not the only veteran even though his long-time central partner Celso Ayala retired from the team a few years ago. Denis Caniza (Cruz Azul) is also making his third finals this summer and can be deployed at left-back or central defence. Players like Jorge Nunez (Estudiantes), Paulo Da Silva (Toluca), Juan Daniel Caceres (Estudiantes) and Julio Cecar Caceres (River Plate) could also be influential at the back. Ruiz has used many different players in defence during the qualifying campaign.

    Roberto Acuņa (Dep. La Coruņa), El Toro, is once again expected to run midfield with class and dignity. He is a powerful player with commanding presence. Another midfielder of high quality is Carlos Paredes (Reggina) - like Acuņa, Gamarra and Caniza he is going to his third World Cup. Coach Ruiz even dubbed Paredes "the best midfielder in the Americas" - not exactly the easiest tag to carry.

    Paraguay do have promising youth in midfield also. Julio Dos Santos (owned by Bayern Munich), Paraguay's Player of the Year 2005, is an up-and-coming playmaker with physical strength to match the best. He can both create and score goals. At Bayern they like to call Dos Santos Paraguay's Ballack. May be he will take over that role at Bayern after the Chelsea-bound German star leaves.

    Jose Montiel (Olimpia), barely 18 years old, could be a big positive surprise at the finals if given the chance to play. He started a few games at the end of the qualifiers where Paraguay finished fourth and grabbed the last automatic spot to Germany. Edgar Barreto (NEC Nijmegen) is another youngster who could shine this summer.

    The team's biggest star and poster-boy is Roque Santa Cruz - dubbed Paraguay's Van Basten at his arrival as a teenager in Bayern Munich in 1999. He just returned from a long injury lay-off and is working his way back to full fitness in time for the World Cup. He has struggled a bit at Bayern, but scores a goal every third game for the national team and is greatly involved in everything Paraguay produce in attack. Strong in the air, lean and good with both feet.

    Jose Cardozo (San Lorenzo) is another key man up front. He is Paraguay's all-time leading national team goalscorer and has been in the team for 15 years. He can still produce the goods in front of goal and should make the starting line-up in Germany. A much younger contender is Nelson Valdez, who enjoys much success at Werder Bremen, he should not be too far away from making the team either. With Santa Cruz's fitness-problem and Cardozo's age in mind, Valdez could get much time on the field in June.

    With a good mix of youth and experience, Paraguay could go deep into the tournament this summer if the influential players remain fit and ready. They were huge underdogs in 1998 and made it out of the groupstage, favourites to go through in 2002 and made it out of the groupstage and now they are underdogs again. They have proved they can handle different types of pre-tournament expectations. Nobody should underestimate Paraguay's chances in Germany.




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