In the qualifiers, Paraguay beat two of the best teams in the tournament, including the one generally considered best in the world. And La Albirroja is eager to atone for their first round elimination in Germany four years ago.
Team: La Albirroja
Colors: Red and white
Formation: 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3
By far the biggest upset during the qualification rounds came when Paraguay defeated Brazil 2-0. Months later, they proved that victory wasn’t a fluke by winning against Argentina, thereby securing a trip to South Africa, their fourth consecutive appearance in the World Cup.
Paraguay is my favorite team from South America. La Albirroja (the White and Red) has neither crying coaches nor superstar talents, but they do have pride and competitive spirit. They are all about representing their country and doing whatever it takes to win.
If healthy, Paraguay has the skills to make a lasting impression on the world stage. They’ve already defeated the best from their continent. Soon we will see what they can do against the rest of the world.
Key Players: Justo Villar, Christian Riveros and Roque Santa Cruz
During the qualifiers, Villar let in only 16 goals in 18 matches against the best that South America has to offer. He’ll have to continue his outstanding play in the net, especially against the Italians.
If La Albirroja has a weakness, it’s their inability to transfer the ball out of the defensive zone at critical times. Key midfielder Riveros will have to bring his A-Game, fight for all challenges and be willing to pick up a foul or two.
Paraguay’s offense relies primarily on Manchester City striker Santa Cruz, whose flair and speed have been well documented by the top European leagues. Since his debut with the national team in 1998, he has netted 20 goals, second in team history, but he was blanked in the 2006 World Cup.
Key Matchup: Paraguay vs. Slovakia
La Albirroja has a fighting chance against Italy in game one, but if things don’t go their way, the Slovaks will be the team to beat for second place. Santa Cruz will have to score some goals for Paraguay to have an outside chance of making it into the next round.
The men in red and white will find a way to get it done and make it into the knockout round. From there, expect some magic along with excitement.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown