Paraguay will be competing in its fourth consecutive World Cup in 2010, but if the last three are any indicator, the second round will be the best result it can hope for.
The South Americans finished third in qualifying for the World Cup and managed to win more games than table-toppers Brazil. Ten wins in the 18 game marathon left them just one point behind the Selecao and tied with Chile. But while qualifying has recently been the forte of Guanaries, turning these outstanding qualifying performances into World Cup results has been a problem.
The build up to the squad's June 14th's opener against Italy has not gone smoothly thus far. A defeat in Dublin was followed up by a draw against Cote d'Ivoire. Today's match against Greece represents Paraguay's final chance of a warm-up win.
A rugged defense and strict organization have been associated with Paraguayan football for generations. Much of the same should be expected in 2010, so for the fourth straight tournament neutral fans will be uninspired.
World Cup History
This is La Albirroja's eighth World Cup appearance, the first dating all the way back to 1930. An admirable record for a country of six million, but early exits have been a common theme. The team has only reached the second round just three times, most notably in 1998, when host France was kept at bay until extra time, when Laurent Blanc scored his golden goal.
Italy June 14th—Cape Town
Slovakia June 20th—Bloemfontein
New Zealand June 24th—Polokwane
The group will give Paraguayans hope of qualification to the second round for a fourth time. Slovakia is making its first appearance and New Zealand is a small footballing nation making only its second World Cup appearance. Paraguayans will be expecting their team to win its games against those two teams.
Italy will surely top the group, no matter what kind of it is currently in, but second place is up for grabs. Paraguay will certainly feel it is capable of taking it.
Despite its historical reputation as a defensive outfit, Paraguay's current stars are all attackers.
Roque Santa Cruz has had a difficult couple of seasons with injuries and loss of form but he is a class act nonetheless, capable with both his feet and head.
Striker Salvador Cabanas was the star of the team during qualification, but has been left out of the final 23-man squad after being shot in the head at a nightclub in January. Cabanas attempted to recover in time for the World Cup but was unable to do so. Lucas Barrios, a target man from Borrussia Dortmund, has replaced him on the roster.
One To Watch—Oscar Cardozo
He has only managed four goals in nearly 30 games for his country but has had an amazing season with Portuguese champions Benfica and is on the shopping list of many top European clubs. This may be his moment to shine.
BEST CASE SCENARIO...
A second round meeting will probably be against Holland, which would then be followed by a match against Spain. Even winning that the first of those would be a miracle for the Paraguay squad.
WORST CASE SCENARIO...
Being knocked out at the group stage is equally as likely for Paraguay as going through to the second round, as Slovakia has a strong first 11. However, losing to New Zealand would be the ultimate embarrassment.
The game against Slovakia will be a battle for second place. Without Cabanas and therefore any midfield unpredictability, a third place finish may ultimately be the end result for Paraguay.