Paraguay 0-0 Japan: neither side takes control

June 29, 2010

The starting line-ups

Paraguay progress on penalties after neither side could score in a very poor 120 minutes of football.

Japan were unchanged from their usual 4-1-4-1 formation and XI. Paraguay named Roque Santa Cruz alongside Lucas Barrios, with Edgar Benitez on the left, and Enrique Vera on the right.

Paraguay’s was the more interesting formation, a 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 hybrid that saw Benitez staying wide on the left and looking to break into the penalty area, whilst Vera played much more centrally, forming a midfield triangle with Cristian Riveros and Nestor Ortigoza. To make up for the lack of right-sided width, Santa Cruz tended to drift to the right when not in possession.

Japan seemed more boxey than usual – less interchanging between the front players, slower and more wasteful in possession. Keisuke Honda dropped deep looking for the ball, but there were rarely players looking to get beyond him and keep moves flowing.

There were basically two problems why the match was so static and uneventful. Firstly, both sides played conservative midfields – looking primarily to get behind the ball, and leave the creating to the front players. There was generally a battle between Riveros-Vera and Nakazawa-Endo in the middle, with Abe and Ortigoza as the insurance players. It meant those two were the players on the pitch with the most amount of time on the ball, but neither used their freedom to create much in the way of goalscoring chances.

Early in the second half, both Abe and Oritgoza suddenly went on dashes forward, as if they’d suddenly realised they had the opportunity to influence the game in the final third. Both found themselves free in the box, but both failed to get a shot or pass away.

The second problem was that the quality of the passing throughout the game was atrocious. Paraguay finished with a 60% pass completion rate, Japan recorded a pitiful 53%. Neither side could construct meaningful attacks, either from central positions or wide areas – the crossing from the full-backs was also very disappointing, particularly from Claudio Morel.

A lack of creativity

We were left to conclude that these are two sides simply lacking in creativity. Japan have impressed because of the technical quality of their individual players, but in truth, they haven’t played exciting football. The performance against Denmark flattered them slightly – their opening goals were both from free-kicks having been the less adventurous team early on. With the Danes needing three to progress, space opened up and Japan looked more impressive. They keep the ball well, but unlocking defences is not their speciality. Paraguay, meanwhile, have also been fairly negative; they’re still waiting for their first goal from a forward player in this competition

In fairness, both managers tried to change things as the game went on. Takeshi Okada took off Abe and Matsui and introduced two more offensive-minded players in Shinji Okazaki, shifting to a vague 4-2-3-1 system for extra-time.

Gerardo Martino also put on goalscorers – Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez both arrived, but had little impact even as Paraguay moved to a more standard 4-3-3. Tiredness became a factor, there were few runs forward from full-back, and penalties seemed inevitable very, very early on.


A disappointing match between two sides who didn’t want to take control of the game. The two holding midfielders were the players with the most time and space in the centre of the pitch, but neither dictated play or created, and the lack of goals was no surprise.

Paraguay possibly shaded the match, but in truth it was a game deserving of the 0-0 scoreline. Paraguay will have to play twice as well to even stand a chance of defeating Spain in the quarter-final.

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