Paraguay vs Japan – Battle of surprise packages to go all the way
On paper this match is the weakest of all the last-16 ties but Paraguay and Japan have produced some of the team performances – and goals – of the tournament, and both found qualification surprisingly straightforward.
At 45th in the world, Japan are the lowest ranked side left in the competition, but a draw after 90 minutes should not be discounted. It’s 9/4 in the match which kicks off in Pretoria at 3pm.
This match is the only one at this stage where the runner-up team collected more points than their first-place opponents, with Japan outscoring Paraguay by six to five.
In Keisuke Honda, they possess an accomplished forward who, against Cameroon, managed to follow through his pre-free-kick Cristiano Ronaldo impression with a 35-yard strike to match. His two goals so far have both openers and he is 7/1 to score first here.
Paraguay emanated professionalism in their group stage progression, and in Roque Santa Cruz (13/2 to score first), Oscar Cardoza (6/1), Lucas Barrios (6/1) and Nelson Valdez (8/1) have a strong and in-depth forward line.
Those four are likely to prove a tough challenge for Japan’s stingy defence meaning Paraguay to score at least once looks a good bet at 4/11.
Gerardo Martino’s team drew two of their group games, though, including their last one 0-0 against New Zealand, and despite the odds suggesting otherwise another all-square after 90 minutes looks probable.
In fact, such is the evenness between the teams it could go all the way to penalties. There has been a single shoot-out at the round-of-16 stage in every World Cup since 1990 and this encounter could be the one to go to spot kicks this time.
And who would bet against Japan’s well-known set-piece ability transferring to 12 yards? The Asian team have won two out of three shoot-outs contested, while the South Americans have lost both of theirs. Japan to win on penalties is 10/1.