Match Preview: PARAGUAY versus JAPAN
Stage: 1/16th Final
Winner Plays Versus: Spain or Portugal
Time: 1600h GMT +1
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium—Tshwane/Pretoria—The capital’s old-fashioned stadium has been the most energetic venue; and being that it's not too large, the camera work has been exceptionally better than in other venues here.
Referee: Frank de Bleeckere (Belgium) a sharp, card wielding referee who is very affirmative with players and keeps the discipline. While he has been excessive on cards from time to time, he has certainly been one of the best officials at this tournament. Most importantly, it seem to be one of the few stadiums where the vuvuzelas don’t drown out the remaining fans.
Date of Birth: 01.07.1966 Oudenaarde in Flanders Height: 182 cm Place of residence: Oudenaarde Occupation: PR manager Mother tongue: Dutch Other languages: French, English, German International since: 1998 First international: Portugal-Wales (02.06.2000) Hobbies: Tennis, travelling Fondest memory: FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 (Final) Brasil v. Mexico; FIFA World Cup Germany 2006; UEFA Euro Austria-Switzerland 2008 (Semi-final) Spain v. Russia
Date of Birth: 01.07.1966 Oudenaarde in Flanders
Height: 182 cm
Place of residence: Oudenaarde
Occupation: PR manager
Mother tongue: Dutch
Other languages: French, English, German
International since: 1998
First international: Portugal-Wales (02.06.2000)
Hobbies: Tennis, travelling
Fondest memory: FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 (Final) Brasil v. Mexico; FIFA World Cup Germany 2006; UEFA Euro Austria-Switzerland 2008 (Semi-final) Spain v. Russia
Overview : A tough but fascinating encounter of two teams whose strengths have been defence. Japan has performed beyond expectations and the Paraguayans were severely underestimated by Italy so far. These two tournament dark horses square off in what will certainly be a fierce battle of tactics and individual heroics from two very different footballing cultures, from very different countries, playing strikingly similar defend-and-counterattack tactics.
Suggested Menu With Your Game:
Appetizer: Paraguayan Huevos Rellenos—or eggs stuffed with river fish mayonnaise, onion pickles and milk crème... the Guarani need to play with “huevos” (translatable as balls) against Japan.
Main Course: Katsu-don is a Japanese rice dish with Pork cutlet that is given to people to encourage them on an important day... this simple yet delicious combination means “wings” and flying is exactly what the Japanese team will need to get past the tough Paraguayan defence. This should be accompanied with Paraguayan Chipa-so, or cornbread with meat filling.. to give the Guarani energy they will need to overtake Japan.
Desert: Chimaki or Japanese steamed, sweet rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaf...
Wine: Paraguayan powerful tannin-full sun-exposed reds and warm Japanese sake... both teams will need it after this game.
Unofficial Theme Song to Accompany Style of Play:
The team of Paraguay must hear their carnival rhythm in the back of their heads today if they are to find their attacking capacity... this music from a Paraguayan carnival promo “Dark Dog is good for you” should do the trick
Tactics: Paraguay has traditionally been the master of the defensive counter-attacking 5-4-1 tactic, which made them such a tremendous success at the 1998 World Cup. Now that has been revolutionized with an excellent 4-3-3, allowing Paraguay to beat both Brazil and Argentina in the World Cup qualifiers. This tactic has continued to improve, leading them to a Group F top finish.
The strength of the team is in four excellent defenders, for which eight little known but World class defenders are competing: A determined and hard working two man defensive midfield, a tireless central midfielder, and a three man attack that can win high balls with tall forwards or attack down the wings and centre with short passes in a classic South American style.
Strengths: Paraguay’s defensive formation is excellent, and very difficult to breach. The Italians underestimated them, and then fell apart psychologically after a draw against them. The attackers are tall, the goalkeeper is a good shot stopper, but most importantly the Guaranis Argentine coach Marino has fostered a superb team mechanism in the Paraguayan outfit. Although not very well known, the team has some very talented players who have achieved much at club level.
Weakness: Since the loss of vital attacker Salvador Cabanas to an armed assault in Mexico last December, Paraguay’s attack has been struggling to find its previous form despite having impressive talent on paper. It's simply a matter of offensive teamwork which has not clicked yet.
Key to beating Japan: Stop the Japanese attacks with a solid defence, don’t give away too many free-kicks, and find a way to start scoring and don’t stop.
Key Squad Members:
Justo Villar the 32 year old became a legend with Argentine club Newell’ Old Boys leading them to the championship before moving to Real Valladolid in La Liga. He turned in some great performances over the past two seasons despite the team’s relegation and not always remaining first choice. He is a bit short for a goal keeper at 179 cm and can make mistakes in the air and on crosses, but he makes up for it with excellent one on one ability.
Paulo da Silva of Sunderland and Anatoli Alcaraz of Club Brugge (moving to Wigan Athletic in the summer). Da Silva was one of the best defenders in the Mexican league when he played for years in Toluca, but he has had a hard time finding his place in the faster Premiership game at Sunderland. The Paraguayan defenders are good tacklers and concentrated, but they lacked the speed to make it in the Premiership. For this reason, a defensive midfield is deployed to slow down the opposition before it gets to the final quarter of the pitch.
Enrique Vera has been a key man in Paraguay’s success far in quiet defensive and offensive roles performed to perfection, scoring a beautiful first touch goal against Slovakia as value added. Little known in Europe, and 31 not likely to make the move anymore, he is highly respected in South America and Mexico. He played a key role in Ecuadorian team LDU Quito’s historic successes in continental competitions, lifting the Copa Libertadores in 2008. High off the ball movement, defensive input, and ability to quickly go from defence to offence makes him perhaps Paraguay’s most important player.
Nelson Valdez has been lighting up the Bundesliga with his excellent wing play for years, and is the closest thing Paraguay has to a creative front player. His dribbling and speed are offset only by his less than perfect finishing.
Roque Santa Cruz is famous in the Premiership for his Blackburn performances, which have been less impressive at Manchester City and from his Bayern Munich days. With the national team, however, he has found his way to the bench often due to inability to always find the net. He is, however, a good creator of opportunities and should start today.
Oscar Cardozo has had trouble scoring for Paraguay, but found the net 65 times in 85 appearances over the last two seasons (which in an extraordinary record) firing Benfica to the Portuguese championship. His goal drought for Paraguay can be blamed on the fact he hasn’t meshed with players like Valdez and Santa Cruz on the pitch and is not getting the service he needs.
Competing with him for a starting spot is Luca Barrios, a fast-furious forward who has had a great deal of success in his first European season with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga scoring 19 goals in 33 appearances. His extraordinary form with Colo Colo in Chile scoring in almost every game (49 goals in 53 games) and being the 2008 World Top Scorer. He is fast, good off the ball, and has scored three goals in six appearances since this Argentine born half-Paraguayan player was a late recruit for the national team, replacing the injured Salvador Cabanas, as it appears so far very well.
Unofficial theme song to accompany style of play:
Japan’s ancient drumming tradition was used to order the Samurai armies before a battle, and no less inspiration that the Demon Drummers will be required if Japan is to overcome the tough challenge of Paraguay and continue their excellent World Cup.
Tactics : Takeshi Okada has done a tremendous job with Japan, especially in improving the team’s defensive qualities. Two tall, strong, consistent central defenders are protected by cautious wingbacks and a two man defensive midfield formation. The 4-5-1 that Japan uses is more like an experimental 4-6-0 formation as the lone striker is a converted midfielder, and has been one of the most exciting players this tournament: Keisuke Honda.
The central aspects of the Japanese strategy involve playing the ball forward to him and getting forward while he holds the ball up before finding his onrushing colleague. This is much like the tactics deployed by Uruguay but even more defensive. Against Paraguay this will be hard, given that the Guarani have a good defence and are likely to neutralize many Japanese attacks.
Also important to mention is how developed the Japanese free-kick and corner strategies are. As Denmark found out the Japanese team is lethal from free-kicks, and Paraguay should be careful not to give too many fouls away.
Strengths: An advanced degree of team work, good deployment of the tactical scheme, a great central defence, very dangerous free-kick, and the ability to counterattack quickly.
Weaknesses: Lack of top level experience combined with physical shortcomings in front of the stronger Paraguayans. This wasn’t, however, a problem with the muscular Cameroonians who Japan beat 2-0. Their overdependence on the play making and attacking of Keisuke Honda could be a problem; but his ability is not to be underrated.
Key to beating Paraguay: Continue improving all aspects of Japan’s highly successful game, and hit the Paraguayans and not allow them to hit back. One goal will not be enough this time, so two or three are needed to guarantee a Japanese victory, as they should absolutely not sit back and defend against Paraguay.
Key Squad Members:
Eiji Kawashima is Kawasaki Frontale’s 27 year old goalkeeper, and his start here was a surprise to people who don’t know Japanese football. His consistent and excellent performances have made up for most of Japan’s few mistakes and he has only allowed one legitimate goal so far (the second being a result of an unfair penalty after a Daniel Agger dive from Denmark which he saved but was followed up).
Yuji Nakazawa the 32 year old Veteran is playing his 108th game for Japan and has been performing like no other Japanese defender to date. His aerial ability and composure make him a true gatekeeper to the Japanese goal.
Tulio Tanaka adds energy to Nakazawa’s consistency, and will be needed to help stop the fast and strong Paraguayan offense. His performances in central defence are also due to his excellent understanding and teamwork with Kawahima and Nakazawa.
Endo and Abe form the Japanese central/defensive midfield, and do a great job slowing down and channelling enemy attack into disadvantageous positions. Endo has been exceptional in his role this World Cup, and should be remembered for more than his outstanding freekick against Denmark.
Captain Makoto Hasebe is midfield leader for Japan much like Vera for Paraguay. The Wolfsburg man’s passing ability has launched the successful Japanese attack, and his ability to remain a presence 90 minutes has been very important in keeping Japan defence under less pressure.
Daisuke Matsui’s wing play has been exciting, and included some exceptional crosses. The Grenoble player has been very dangerous and has exhibited impressive off-the-ball movement in all three Japanese games.
Keisuke Honda one of the stars of 2010 World Cup so far, he scored 2 goals and created two more for Japan. His prolific form in South Africa is not a surprise, given his outstanding two years in which he conquered the Dutch league with outstanding play for modest VVV Venlo before progressing to some thrilling play in the Champions League with CSKA Moscow. Honda is one of those players that has the talent for simplifying the game down to superb efficiency, and taking advantage of even the smallest mistakes by the opposition. Normally an offensive midfielder, he has been converted to a playmaking forward in the Japan team, and should be praised for his unselfish play.
Takayuki Moritomo could finally make an appearance today from the bench. This excellent player has succeeded with modest Seria A outfit Catania over the past two seasons with speed, hard work, and goal scoring flair; but he has not yet been used by the coach. It would be insane not to introduce him if Japan is short of goals, as he is a player who can make a difference even if his Japan performances have not yet been stellar.
Expected Result: Paraguay win 2-1 in a tight battle.
A Slight Surprise: Extra time with Paraguay pulling off a 1-0 win.
A real shocker : Japan sends the Guarani home 3-1.
Obi Wan Asterix Says : Paraguay will be a really hard test for Japan doing everything that Japan does but even better. It will be hard for the Japanese to reach the Guarani goal, not that this will be impossible, and the Paraguayans will be able to use their dribbling and technique to create opportunities. With a hope of motivating Japan to prove me wrong, I predict 3-1 for Paraguay in regular time.