Paraguay profile – goals absent but defence near unbreakable
Paragauay have slipped quietly into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, with defensive solidity and only occasional glimpses of attacking sparkle. But a side who beat Brazil and Argentina in qualifying should not be underestimated. They are 40/1 to win the World Cup.
Justo Villar is another keeper captain and, with 73 caps since 1999, is a reassuring presence in between the South Americans’ sticks. The 33-year-old is finally featuring properly at a World Cup, having played back-up to Jose Luis Chilavert in 2002 and getting injured after seven minutes of the 2006 edition.
He flapped at a corner for Italy’s goal but managed to unnerve Yuichi Komano enough for the Japan player to miss his penalty and a fourth clean sheet at the tournament is a 4/1 chance.
With only one goal conceded in four World Cup matches it’s clear Paraguay have a very well-drilled defence.
Right-back Carlos Bonet and centre-back Antolin Alcaraz were rested for the New Zealand game but, as they did against Japan, should link up with Claudio Morel and Paulo Da Silva to produce a quality unit, where their teamwork is the star.
They haven’t conceded a goal in 327 minutes of football and it would be a brave person to bet they’ll let in more than one against Spain – less than 1.5 goals is Evens.
Victor Caceras will be back from suspension and should start as the holding midfielder behind two of Paraguay’s most effectual players so far: Cristian Riveros and Enrique Vera. Each scored a delightful goal against Slovakia and, with such clinical finishes, could be a good price to score first against Spain. They are both 20/1 to open the scoring.
The foursome of Lucas Barrios (11/1 to score first), Oscar Cardozo (11/1), Roque Santa Cruz (11/1) and Nelson Valdez (14/1) has been on rotation since the opening game, with Gerardo Martino trying out various combinations and formations.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the manager mixing it up with 4-4-2s and 4-3-3s Paraguay have only netted three goals in four games with not one of these forwards yet getting on the score sheet.
It’s probable that with defence in mind only two of them will start against Spain, with Cardozo and Valdez likely to be the unlucky ones.