Paraguay – functional rather than spectacular

June 8, 2010

A possible starting XI if Paraguay go 4-4-2

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino has used his pre-tournament friendlies for experimentation, both in terms of formation and personnel, making his starting line-up for the opening game against Italy difficult to predict.

After experimenting with a 3-4-3 against Ireland and a 4-3-3 in subsequent friendlies, it now appears that he might revert to a defensive-minded 4-4-2 formation, despite the fact he possesses plenty of good forwards, and a lack of creativity in midfield.

Roque Santa Cruz is one player who would prefer that system – when Paraguay have fielded a three-man attack, Santa Cruz has looked lost out on the right-hand side, and he will partner Lucas Barrios upfront in a 4-4-2.

The possible XI

In goal will be Justo Villar – remarkably small for a goalkeeper, and one who looks nervous whenever the opposition fire crosses into the box, but Paraguay’s clear No 1 having started 17 of the 18 qualification games.

The defence in front of him is fairly unexciting but not particularly solid either. It will probably feature two full-backs who can also play at centre-back, Dario Veron on the right and the more attack-minded Claudio Morel on the left. Paulo da Silva is a definite starter in the middle, possibly alongside Antolin Alcatraz, who has come from nowhere to be in with a chance of starting, although Julio Cesar Caceres is the more established option, a committed but technically-limited character.

The problem with a 4-4-2 is that the midfield will be overwhelmingly functional rather than creative. Martino looks likely to go with Enrique Vera, Victor Cacares, Cristiano Riveros and Aureliano Torres – the first three being steady, unfussy midfielders, and Torres being a converted left-back.

Paraguay named six forwards in their 23-man squad, and it will probably be an unfamiliar starting pairing of Santa Cruz and Barrios. Barrios is an Argentinian-born striker who only became Paraguayan three months ago, but has started his international career with three goals in three games and looks likely to start.

But many would favour a third forward, with Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo both excellent options from the bench, but then Paraguay seem to be more effective with the 4-4-2 they displayed in qualifying, rather than the three-striker formations Martino has tried in friendlies.

Conclusion

Paraguay are often the least exciting of the South American teams at the World Cup, and that seems unlikely to change here, with a technically-limited defence and an overwhelmingly functional midfield.

The key man is Barrios, in form both for his club and his (new) country, and Santa Cruz will have to make a positive start to maintain his place in the side – he rarely featured in qualifying, and Cardozo is a ready-made replacement.

The biggest positive for Paraguay is that they are in a very weak group. If they avoid defeat to Italy in their first game they can win the group, although they won’t win many friends.

Paraguay – functional rather than spectacular

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