Paraguay World Cup Team Profile
Paraguay’s World Cup 2010 will be the story of three strikers: the perpetually injured golden boy Roque Santa Cruz, the tragically absent Salvador Cabanas and his surprise replacement, Lucas Barrios.
Cabanas was one of Paraguay’s key players throughout qualifying, leading the team in scoring and providing a fighting mentality atop the line. Unfortunately, not long after qualifying ended he was shot in the head in a Mexico City bar and though his life was saved, his World Cup, and perhaps playing career, wasn’t. This means Santa Cruz, Paraguay’s golden boy and a phenomenally gifted striker who’s been healthy enough to score more than 5 goals only once in his career (at 19), will need to avoid the inevitable injuries until mid-July. Or maybe it’ll be Barrios, the man who some were calling for Diego Maradona to bring to South Africa, but instead will be going with his mother’s Paraguay.
Whatever the case, Paraguay certainly won’t be lacking for inspiration.
Nickname: La Albirroja (White and red)
FIFA World Ranking as of April 28th 2010: 30th
Group F Matches:
Italy v Paraguay, June 14th, 8:30p, Cape Town
Slovakia v Paraguay, June 20th, 1:30p, Bloemfontein
Paraguay v New Zealand, June 24th, 4p, Polokwane
Kit: True to their nickname: white and red.
Buy your Paraguay kits here.
Coach: Gerardo Martino. Outside of a brief spell in Spain as a player, Martino’s entire career has been spent in South America, not giving him the global profile some coaches will enjoy. However, what he’s done with Paraguay has been nothing short of outstanding in his three years, taking to tops in qualifying before ultimately falling one point short of Brazil. They’ve drawn the short stick in the bracket, with Italy, Netherlands, Brazil and Spain looming, but if anyone can break Paraguay’s second round curse, it might be Gerardo.
Key Players: They want not for attacking talent, even if it’s not entirely productive: Roque Santa Cruz has scored 7 goals since his total of 19 three years and is the footballing lemon – always liable to break down – while Oscar Cardozo can’t buy goals for Paraguay even though he can’t stop scoring for Benfica. Luckily there is the Borussia Dortmund duo of Lucas Barrios, who scored 19 himself this year, and Nelson Valdez, and even though the former has stolen headlines, the latter will likely see the significant minutes.
Even though he hails from the Marcelo Bielsa football school, Martino’s mainly preferred a 4-4-2 with a comparatively unheralded Jonathan Santana, Victor Caceres, Cristian Riveros and Edgar Barreto across the pitch. And in the back, experience is the name of the game, if they can remember it, since the four plus keeper who were run out in qualifying - Dario Veron, Paulo da Silva, Julio Cesar Caceres, Claudio Morel Rodriguez and Justo Villa – are all on the other side of 30.
Player with best YouTube video: There’s really only one answer: Lucas Barrios. Borussia famously signed him after watching some YouTubers, and we can only assume Paraguay did the same.*
* – Dismiss the fact that Paraguayan head honchos likely saw him once or twice while keeping tabs on Nelson Valdez.
Player with best name: You know, as much pub as he gets for his status, Roque Santa Cruz just rolls off the tongue like some cheesy romance novel lothario, doesn’t it?
Don’t answer that.
Player with best nickname: Dario Veron for Hechicero, The Wizard, simply because it’s inspiration to defenders the world over – not all wizards are #10’s.
Qualification: They coasted near the top for awhile, beating Dunga’s Brazil and Diegos’ Argentina in the process, but settled out tied with Chile on points in second, one point from the top.
Interesting: Their World Cup preparations got off to a potentially ominous start when $100k was stolen from their French hotel. It’s the black cat of World Cup training camp.
(No, this isn’t quite as interesting to them.)
National Anthem: Paraguayos, República o Muerte (Paraguayans, Republic or Death)
World Cup History:
Expectations: Paraguay are likely the favorites to finish just behind Italy, but some might be sleeping on Slovakia, who played awfully well away from home in qualifying(played well at home too), so it’s a proper two team battle for second, with the winner likely to face the Netherlands. Paraguay might expect the knockouts, but anything after that will be a bonus.
Squad: Paraguay World Cup squad.
Blog: Victor runs the point at the Paraguay World Cup Blog.
- More World Cup 2010 Team Profiles.