Paraguay vs. Uruguay: What a Copa America Win Will Mean for Paraguay
Paraguay vs. Uruguay isn't exactly the final we expected to see. Paraguay's quarterfinal opponent, Brazil and Uruguay's quarterfinal opponent, Argentina, could have made a much better case for being deserving of a spot in the final.
That's why they play all of the games. In a tournament jam-packed with parody, it's only fitting that the final would feature two middle-of-the-road teams.
Uruguay is trying to build on their tradition, while Paraguay is trying to create one. Winning this match would help to pull Uruguay back to relevancy, but this match means far more to Paraguay.
Paraguay has only won two major tournaments in history. Both victories were in the Copa America and both came prior to 1980.
Paraguay has a a great fan base. Given the diehard nature of their followers, a victory in the Copa America means a lot more people than Larissa Riquelme are going to be putting their exuberance on display.
Uruguay is going to be a huge obstacle for Paraguay. The Paraguayans stumble into this game after narrowly winning a string matches in the knockout stages.
In fact, Paraguay has only scored in regulation of one game. They have failed to win a single match without going into penalty kicks, which becomes problematic going forward.
Even so, their penalty kick wins speak to their resiliency. Paraguay isn't going away. They are literally going to fight their way to victory when they have to. Paraguay has a chip on their shoulder and anyone who stands in their way is subject to demise.
Brazil entered the quarterfinals probably expecting to steamroll Paraguay. While they tied them in group play, Brazil was clicking on all cylinders in their previous match, where they took down Ecuador, 4-2. Paraguay had been held scoreless against Ecuador.
Paraguay stunned Brazil, sending them packing in a shocking penalty kicks defeat. It is the signature win of their Copa America run thus far. Paraguay isn't letting anyone get in the way at their chance to bring home the Copa America this year. Not even a tournament favorite.
They didn't coast through the semifinals by any means. They faced Venezuela, who the team took to a 3-3 draw in the group stage.
Predictably, the match went to penalty kicks, where Paraguay converted all five PKs and punched their ticket to the final.
Who will win the 2011 Copa America Final?
Immediately following the match, an ugly scene broke out in which Paraguay staff and players were involved in a brawl with Venezuela staff and players. The fight demonstrates Paraguay's inability to simply back down, even when it's counterproductive.
They carry their fearless mentality into the final with them. Uruguay's performance thus far indicates that they may have the edge, but Paraguay is sure to be a relentless force.
A victory over Uruguay would be the highlight of every member of this team's career. Not only would they be able to give the Paraguay fans a win, they would be able to help build the legacy of Paraguay soccer. This isn't just about winning the final in the Copa America. It's much more than that.
Paraguay is looking to carry this momentum into the 2014 World Cup. They put forth their personal best World Cup performance in 2010, when they reached the quarterfinal. It is clear that Paraguay is turning a corner. Winning the Copa America would put them on the map.
A victory here would let the world know that Paraguay is a legitimate international force and give Paraguay the confidence to build on their newly found tradition.
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