Paraguay announce a final squad primed to cause a surprise
Unfamiliar stars look set to take centre stage for Paraguay after the country named a strong final 23-man squad for the World Cup Finals.
Freshly nationalised Argentine Lucas Barrios made the cut after scoring two goals in his first two games for his new country, as did Sunderland’s recent acquisition Cristian Riveros.
Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz, Sunderland’s other Paraguayan Paulo da Silva and Dortmund’s Nelson Váldez all have a place on the plane too, but it is the unknown quantities Barrios and Riveros who could prove most vital.
Striker Barrios, who has enjoyed an impressive first season with Borussia Dortmund by notching 19 times in 33 games, not only put away two neat finishes in warm-up matches against Republic of Ireland and Ivory Coast but also led the line well despite the side being 2-0 down on both occasions.
Riveros meanwhile, who Black Cats boss Steve Bruce signed in May, is also tipped to play a bigger role than he did at the 2006 tournament, following a creative season on the left wing for Mexican side Cruz Azul.
Despite being just a point behind Brazil in qualifying, it seems as though many haven’t made their mind up about Paraguay’s chances for success, with group stage, round of 16 and quarter-final eliminations at a reasonably balanced 13/8, 6/4 and 10/3 respectively.
Perhaps their group stage elimination in 2006 is in the memory, but in the two previous tournaments they were only knocked out in the round of 16 by the eventual finalists (Germany in 2002), and the eventual winners (France in 1998).
With Group F being on the easier side and the Paraguay 23 possessing bundles of skill, this side should go a bit further than anticipated, making a decisive bet on a quarter-final elimination all the more appetising.
Will Paraguay beat Italy to the top of Group F? They are 5/2 to do so.