BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa: Paraguay aim to extend the South American dominance gripping the World Cup when they face Slovakia on Sunday (1130 GMT) looking for goals but are wary of being caught out on the counter-attack.
South American teams, led by the impressive Argentina, have so far been the main source of entertainment at the finals, notching up five wins and two draws. Paraguay are determined to match the performances of their bigger neighbours.
Forward Roque Santa Cruz, who came off the bench in the 1-1 draw with world champions Italy having been troubled by a muscle strain, told reporters he expected a more open match against Slovakia on Sunday due to the attacking nature of both sides.
However, the lanky striker has urged his team mates to be cautious, telling reporters: “We can have a nasty surprise with their counter-attack, they do that very well.”
Paraguay’s draw with Italy was matched by the scoreline in Slovakia;s match with New Zealand who got a last-gasp equaliser, leaving all four Group F teams on one point. Italy and Paraguay therefore remain favourites to progress to the knockout stages.
A win for Paraguay against a Slovakia side still to play Italy would almost certainly set up a safe second round passage ahead of their match with outsiders New Zealand on June 24 and alll but end the Slovaks’ first World Cup campaign.
“It all depends on us now and our precision with the ball. We think Slovakia will play with a little more freedom because a draw is not good for them and it is not good for us,” Paraguay midfielder Cristian Riveros told reporters on Friday.
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino will use a 4-3-3 formation at the Free State Stadium with Santa Cruz coming into the side for Aureliano Torres alongside Nelson Valdez and Lucas Barrios.
Slovakia have hardly been seen since their draw with New Zealand, coach Vladimir Weiss shunning the media spotlight while he spends his time plotting an upset.
“The coach doesn’t want the players getting distracted by the media,” team spokeswoman Marianna Cizmarova said. “It is a result of that match (against New Zealand).
“He wants them to concentrate on being a team.”
Weiss has no injury concerns and is expected to make just one change to his starting lineup with midfielder Miroslav Stoch coming in for forward Erik Jendrisek.
That change would likely see Stanislav Sestak move forward from midfield alongside the goalscorer against New Zealand Robert Vittek, with Stoch just behind the strikers.
Paraguay have not got past the second round in seven attempts but, having beaten Brazil and Argentina in qualifying, believe they can now take their place alongside the big guns.
BDST: 1113hrs, June 19, 2010