This will be evident on June 14th, when the whole nation will stop to enjoy their team take on World Cup champions Italy in their first group game. Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo has given all the public workers a day off to get behind the team. This just shows that the country backs them in the toughest group fixture and why not when you have got a squad full of attacking talent.
Coach Gerardo Martino is likely to play a 4-3-3 formation with Nelso Haedo Valdez and Oscar Cardozo likely to start on the wings, giving Roque Santa Cruz the central role he plays so well. With the midfield section looking thin, the squad is likely to play the strong central midfield players as a three, allowing the full backs space to attack.
The coach hinted at the formation by using attack as the best form of defence against the Italians. “Now there is so much variety in the attack of Paraguay, who have never had this amount. We will use this as a strength to counteract the weaknesses. In the past it has been attacking, but not like now – alongside [Nelson] Haedo [Valdez] and [Roque] Santa Cruz there is Oscar Cardozo and Lucas Barrios, although unfortunately not Salvador Cabanas.”
If the coach was to go with the 4-3-3 attacking formation, Paraguay will be looking to directly damage Italy’s strongest weapon. Their defence has been formidable and the side is best known for the defenders they have produced along the years. A South American side is never known to play a direct game, the midfielders will certainly look to dominate the midfield in all three group games. Against Italy it is possible that the two strikers will be used as wide midfielders, to drop back to thwart the quality that the Azzuri pose.
Cardozo, Santa Cruz, Valdez all made it into the 23 man squad announced a fortnight ago. Those three strikers are the main reason why the red and white of South America believe they will have their best World Cup. A number of goals are likely to be scored by those three, as they all have shown impressive form in the recent friendlies. Santa Cruz has had his injury problems in the past year, this is something La Albirroja will be looking to manage correctly so his tournament doesn’t end prematurely.
If an injury was to happen, then a readymade replacement could come in the form of an Argentine. Lucas Barrios is likely to fill up one of the spaces on the bench but could become the super sub of the tournament. The Dortmund striker didn’t feature in the qualifying campaign, but has bagged three goals already for his adopted country. A good poacher, who also has an eye for a great goal, he has come under praise and criticism from his countrymen. With some Paraguayans stating he would be a favourite in no time, with others saying he has denied a true Paraguayan a chance of a call up. Martino certainly believes he deserves a call up and has recently stated that his ‘influence of the bench’ could become a huge factor in games.
Whether or not the attacking threat of La albijorra perform on the day, one thing that is for certain is that a nation will be coming to a stop on the beginning of June 14th to expect greatness in South Africa.