Paraguay U17s: Squad to participate in Copa Mexico de Naciones

The Albirrojita will participate in the 3rd Copa Mexico de Naciones from the 2nd of August which will act as a serious test before the 2015 Sudamericano to be held in Paraguay. The U17s find themselves in a tough group alongside neighbours Argentina, the USA and China.

Paraguay participated last year with an U15s side

Paraguay participated last year with an U15s side

This will be our first chance to take a look at these players who have been meeting in the high performance centre in Ypané for the last couple of months in preparation for this tournament. The full squad is as follows:

@prensaalbirroja

@prensaalbirroja

 

The opening game is on 2nd August at 10:00 am local time (11:00 am Paraguay time) versus  Argentina followed by China the next day at 12:00 noon local time before finishing on Monday 4th August with the match against the USA at 10:00 am.

Last year Paraguay reached the semi-finals and finished 4th after a penalty defeat to the USA, they’ll hope to go one better this time.

 

By Ralph Hannah

5 reasons Nacional are in the Copa Libertadores Final

In even their wildest dreams Nacional fans couldn’t have imagined reaching the final of the most prestigious competition in the Americas but yesterday those dreams became a reality. Here are 5 reasons why Club Nacional are the first Paraguayan team other than Olimpia to reach a continental final.

Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Continuity: It would be easy just to name Gustavo Morinigo here but the 37-year-old coach is just part of the 2-year project leading up to this moment. Credit must be handed to Robert Harrison the club president who could have gone for another foreign coach after Javier Torrente’s dismissal in 2012 but opted for Morinigo who had been playing at the club and had won the league as a player in 2011. Again, once Morinigo had arguably punched above his weight (coming runner-up in the 2012 Clausura and then winning the 2013 Apertura) there might have been a temptation to pull in a big name for this year’s Copa Libertadores campaign but the board stuck with the local boy. Similarly the team have mainly stuck together with much of today’s squad having won the 2011 Apertura title.

Nacional in their 2012 campaign Photo: clubnacional.com.py

Familiar faces during their 2012 campaign Photo: clubnacional.com.py

Experience: The Copa Libertadores is similar to the Champions League, there is a certain knack needed to qualify from the group stages and it takes a while to get to grips with the midweek travel schedule. As mentioned above a lot of this side won the league in 2011 and crashed out of the Libertadores group stages in 2012. Raúl Piris, Silvio Torales, Derlis Orué, Marcos Riveros, Ignacio Don and David Mendoza were all involved while Fredy Bareiro joined having reached the final with Olimpia in 2013. Morinigo himself has participated in the competition as a player several times with Libertad and Nacional.

Faith: The goal celebrations with the whole team on their knees pointing to the heavens are symbolic – I’m necessarily not talking divine intervention (San Lorenzo have the edge on that one thanks to a certain Francisco) but the faith the players have in their coach and in each other. On both trips to Buenos Aires the Tricolor had to protect a slender lead from the first leg and did so by dropping deep and absorbing heaps and heaps of pressure, it takes a lot of confidence in the system and in your teammates to play like that for 90 minutes.

Nacional celebrate goal in typical fashion, Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Nacional celebrate goal in typical fashion, Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Ignacio Don: When you are defending deep you are inevitably going to leave space and concede shots…a lot of shots…170 to be exact. Argentinian-born Ignacio “Nacho” Don has been equal to everything thrown at him and kept 5 cleansheets while making 48 saves and I’m willing to bet at least half of those have been stunners. He was rightly picked as the Man of the Match in the 2nd leg against Defensor Sporting producing some tremendous saves.

Luck: With the greatest respect to Nacional they scraped through the group stages with a winner 7 minutes from time (and a -2 goal difference). In the semi-final they survived the violet storm in the final minutes against Defensor Sporting with Herrera somehow hitting the bar from a couple of yards out in the last minute. Although they beat Velez in the last 16 they have been fortunate to avoid a “big” side and would be the first non-Brazilian Copa Libertadores  champion to not have faced a Brazilian side in the knockout stages since River Plate in 1996.

 

By Ralph Hannah

Copa Libertadores semi-final: Defensor Sporting vs Nacional preview

Defensor Sporting vs Nacional
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo
29/07/2014; 20:15 (01:15 BST)
Semi-Final, 2nd Leg (0-2 aggregate)
TV: Fox Sports (Latin America)

The tricolor arrive in Montevideo knowing they are just 90 minutes from the Copa Libertadores final. No Paraguayan side other than Olimpia have ever made a continental final and Nacional did the hard work in the first leg with two goals and an all-important cleansheet that gives them plenty of breathing space. It will be their fourth trip to Montevideo, they’ve lost the previous three by a two-goal margin.

Nacional celebrate goal in the 1st leg in typical fashion, Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Nacional celebrate goal in the 1st leg in typical fashion, Photo: Club Nacional Paraguay

Nacional took the game to their rivals in the 1st leg and were slick in midfield with the strength of the Riveros and Torales central midfield combination having been a theme of this Libertadores campaign. Their role is likely to be slightly more defensive this time but Gustavo Morinigo is confident he has the better side on paper and as such will keep the same XI that started the first leg. That means two strikers with Julian Benítez and Brian Montenegro hoping to get in behind the Uruguayan defence at every opportunity. The main man to watch however is Marcos Melgarejo, the 27-year-old winger was a constant threat and maybe now after this incredible season he will finally get the chance to test himself  abroad.

The iconic stadium, used for the first World Cup is the scene for tonight's game

The iconic stadium, used for the first World Cup is the scene for tonight’s game

Defensor Sporting were understandably negative in the game in Asunción but it backfired and now they need to score at least twice to have a chance of making the final. Ramón Arias is likely to return at full back replacing Etcheverry while 6 ft 5 in striker Joaquín Boghossian is set to replace Matías Alonso. With the inclusion of Boghossian in the violeta side it is likely that Nacional captain Raúl Piris will have his work cut out especially at set pieces.

Nacional XI (probable): Ignacio Don; Ramón Coronel, Raúl Piris, Leonardo Cáceres, David Mendoza; Marcos Melgarejo, Marcos Riveros, Silvio Torales, Derlis Orué; Brian Montenegro, Julian Benítez

Prediction: 1-1

Selected Odds: Defensor Sporting win 1.81, Draw 3.65,  Nacional win 5.1, 1-1 draw 7.2, Under 2.5 goals 1.7

Best Bet: Defensor have to go out and look for goals, Nacional have pace on the counter so Both Teams to Score is not out of the question

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Stats and Trivia

This is the second meeting between Nacional and Defensor Sporting.

Nacional’s previous three games in the Estadio Centenario ended in 2-goal defeats but they’ve always scored at least once, losing 3-1 twice and 4-2 once. 

Nacional vs Uruguayan opposition  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 7 W 1 D 1 L 5 GF 7 GA 17

Nacional last five away in Copa Libertadores

Pld 5 W 0 D 3 L 2 GF 4 GA 8 
========================================

Authors Note: All odds are selected from Betfair Sports and accurate at the time of writing, there is a live market on this game

Clausura Week 1 Round-up

Domestic football returned at the weekend with the Clausura kicking off in grand fashion with a Libertad on the right end of a five-goal thriller, Cerro on the wrong end of one and Olimpia’s new era under Marcelo Trovato got off to a flyer with a convincing victory in Ciudad del Este as the youngsters shone.

Nacional 0-3 Capiatá – Fabio Escobar (2), Oscar Ruiz

Nacional’s B-team took to the field as the heroes from the Copa Libertadores triumph rested and Capiatá took advantage. Fabio Escobar continues his good form from the Apertura with two more goals.

Sportivo Luqueño 0-0 Rubio Ñu

No fireworks in the Feliciano Cáceres, both teams will be disappointed not to have made a mark on the scoresheet.

Sol de América 2-3 Libertad – Edgar Villasboa, Alfredo Mazacotte; Diego Vázquez (o.g.), Gustavo Mencia, Rodrigo López

A fantastic game that ebbed and flowed, two quickfire goals seemed to have turned the game in Sol de América’s favour but defender Mencia and last season’s topscorer Rodrigo López scored late on to win the game for the champions.

A great battle between the sides, Photo: Sol de América (prensa)

A great battle between the sides, Photo: Sol de América (prensa)

12 de Octubre 1-1 Guaraní – Gustavo Santacruz; Fernando Fernandez

A late strike by Gustavo Santacruz seemed to have earned 3 valuable points for 12 de Octubre but Fernando Fernandez continued his rich vein of form with his 10th goal in 8 games to make it honours even.

3 de Febrero 1-3 Olimpia – Cristian Colman; Juan Manuel Salgueiro (pen), Christian Ovelar, Jeremias Bogado

An impressive display from El Decano but there will be harder games in the next few weeks, will be fascinating to see how their youngsters perform.

General Díaz 3-2 Cerro Porteño

The Aguilas pulled off a stunning victory with two goals from Pedro Chavez in the final 20 minutes to steal the points from Cerro’s grasp. Chiqui Arce’s team had come back from conceding an early goal to go 2-1 up and as ever they were purring in attack but defensive frailties continue to dog them.

 

Pedro Chavez was the man of the weekend, Photo: Club General Díaz

Pedro Chavez was the man of the weekend, Photo: Club General Díaz

 

 

 

By Ralph Hannah

Clausura 2014: A beginner’s guide

The 2014 Clausura is upon us with one of the two big clubs Olimpia or Cerro Porteño likely to miss out on the Copa Libertadores if they don’t win the title so an intense battle is afoot. But what about Rubio Ñu – how does relegation work – why does the home team often not play at home? Some of your questions answered here.

1. What is the format of the Paraguayan Clausura?

There are 12 teams, everybody plays each other home and away so 22 games in total. At the end of the 22 games the winner is crowned Clausura champion. Libertad have already won the Apertura so they would be “Campeón absoluta” should they win this. There is no playoff between the Apertura/Clausura champions as happened in previous years.

2. Who qualifies for continental competition?

Libertad are already in both the 2015 Libertadores and Sudamericana by virtue of winning the Apertura. The Clausura champion will join them. Then the best-placed non-champion grabs the final Libertadores spot, that is calculated by adding their points total from both the Apertura and Clausura. The other Sudamericana spots go to the non-champion with the 2nd and 3rd highest accumulative points total.

3. How does relegation work?

Similar to Argentina the relegation system is weighted in favour of the big team.  At the end of each calendar year the two sides with the lowest average points (promedio) over the last 3 seasons are relegated to the Intermedia. If a team has only been in the league for two or one year then that average is taken instead. Going into the Clausura the 2 promoted clubs 3 de Febrero and 12 de Octubre are in the drop zone. 

3 (a). Isn’t that a bit unfair?

Yes, but it does allow the major clubs to throw all their weight behind a Copa Libertadores campaign in a particular year and not fear relegation.

4. Why do a lot of teams not play at home?

Usually when a smaller side plays Olimpia or Cerro Porteño it is safer and more economically viable to “sell” their home advantage and organize the game at the national stadium Defensores del Chaco. Ultimately the two games against Cerro and Olimpia are the major earners for the smaller clubs. The superclásico is also usually played in the Defensores del Chaco (and sometimes the Antonio Aranda in Ciudad del Este) to accommodate as many fans as possible. On a few occassions games are played in a different venue because of the TV kickoff times although this is less of an issue now that most Primera clubs have installed floodlights.

5. Are any games fixed?

No, stop being so cynical! Since I’ve been following the football here closely in the last 4 years there has been no suspicion of a Primera game being fixed. Having said that incentive payments do happen which is when a team is promised a bonus from a bigger club to beat their rival. That can sometimes explain why a small team on a terrible run of form somehow manages to steal a point or 3 from a title-challenger.

6. How many games are televised?

On a given weekend there are at least 3 and usually 4 televised games – the current TV contract with the APF stipulates that all Cerro Porteño and Olimpia’s game must be broadcast and usually one from Libertad, Guaraní, Nacional or Luque will be shown. The deal is with Tigo Sports with Tigo also sponsoring the league. I usually mention the televised games in the fixtures.

7. Why are players getting subbed off in the first half so often?

The current rules stipulate that a Paraguayan player under 20 years of age must start each game but there is no maximum time they must be on the field. With many coaches not in agreement with the rule (nor very trusting of their youngsters) the habit has developed of the U20s player to be subbed off after 15-20 minutes in each game.

8. Any other rules I should know about?

Oh yes, having previously allowed a maximum of 4 foreign players per side that was reduced to 3 during the Apertura and for the 2014 Clausura only 2 foreign players are allowed per team. The idea behind this rule and the insistence of an U20s player is a direct reaction to Paraguay’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Let’s see if it works!

9. Ok, I’ve got it – who is going to win the thing?

Your guess is as good as mine!

By Ralph Hannah…any other questions you can find me on Twitter @paraguayralph or put them in the Comments section below

Copa Libertadores Semi-Final: Nacional vs Defensor Sporting

Nacional vs Defensor Sporting
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
22/07/2014; 20:15 (01:15 BST)
Semi-Final, 1st Leg
TV: Fox Sports (Latin America)

The wonderful story that is Nacional’s historic cup run resumes on Tuesday with their first ever semi-final in continental competition as they take on Uruguayan outfit Defensor Sporting. This will be the Academia’s 49th continental game, their 41st in the Copa Libertadores. They’ve won 4 of their 5 home games in this year’s tournament so will be confident they can take a good result to Montevideo.

Photo: Club Nacional Facebook

Photo: Club Nacional Facebook

Nacional haven’t played a competitive game in almost a month, that was a 6-2 defeat to Guaraní in the last game of the Apertura and actually ended the season in rotten form with no wins in their final 7 matches. However, this is a different game and another kind of motivation. Up front they are boosted by the returns from injury of both Fredy Bareiro and Julian Benítez while new signings Bryan Montenegro (on loan from Libertad) and Cecilio Dominguez (ex-Sol de América) will be eligible to play. Marcos Riveros was linked with a switch to Olimpia but the lure of a Libertadores semi-final was too much of a pull and he will continue with the Barrio Obrero club.

Photo: Club Nacional Facebook

Photo: Club Nacional Facebook

Defensor Sporting are also making history having gone one round further than their previous best in 2007 and 2009. While some of their success can be seen as a continuation of their performance in the 2012 U20s Copa Libertadores (they were runners up) with members of that squad such as Girorgian De Arrascaeta now in the senior side the main source of goals has been 36-year-old Nico Oliveira. The former Sevilla striker has scored five times and is joint topscorer in the competition.

It is fair to say we can expect a cagey game, not one of the Quarter Final’s 8 games went Over 2.5 goals and both of Nacional’s knockout games in the Defensores have been won 1-0. Could they complete the hattrick?

Nacional XI (probable): Ignacio Don; Ramón Coronel, Raúl Piris, Leonardo Cáceres, David Mendoza; Marcos Melgarejo, Marcos Riveros, Silvio Torales, Derlis Orué; Cecilio Domínguez, Fredy Bareiro.

Prediction: 1-0

Selected Odds: Nacional win 2.1, Draw 3.35, Defensor Sporting win 4.3, 1-0 home win 6.0, Under 2.5 goals 1.6

Best Bet: With the Under 2.5 odds on there is a bit of value in the 0-0 HT scoreline at 2.52 taking into account 3/4 of Nacional’s and all of Defensor’s knockout games were goalless after the first 45

========================================

Stats and Trivia

This is the first meeting between Nacional and Defensor Sporting.

Nacional’s most frequent result in this competition is a 3-1 defeat which has happened 5 times.

Nacional vs Uruguayan opposition  (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 6 W 0 D 1 L 5 GF 5 GA 17

Nacional home to Uruguayan opposition (Copa Libertadores)

Pld 3 W 0 D 1 L 2 GF 1 GA 7

Nacional last five home in Copa Libertadores

Pld 5 W 4 D 1 L 0 GF 8 GA 4 

========================================

Authors Note: All odds are selected from Betfair Sports and accurate at the time of writing, there is a live market on this game

2013 Clausura Week 10: Olimpia vs Cerro de Franco preview

Olimpia vs Cerro de Franco
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
21/09/2013; 19:00 (00:00 BST)
TV: Unicanal (Paraguay)

Olimpia are really suffering a post-Libertadores final hangover as they don’t seem to have the team spirit and winning mentality that saw this group of players (bar a few changes) just four minutes from South American glory in July. Tonight they take on the only team with less points in the Clausura, Cerro de Franco who have problems of unpaid salaries and bonuses that have affected the squad.

Libertad are searching for their first win in six against Olimpia - Photo: Prensa Club Libertad

Salgueiro (left) is a key player for Olimpia – Photo: Prensa Club Libertad

Ever Almeida has received a huge boost for his beleaguered side with the return of Juan Manuel Salgueiro to increase their chances of keeping possession and finding the net. Other than the crazy 4-4 draw with Sol they have failed to score in their previous three games. Defence of course has been an issue with 10 goals conceded in the last 3 games and the Decano have switched between a back four and back three during 2013 with a line of four preferred today.

Cerro de Franco are on a horrendous losing streak that has stretched to five games and even the change of manager – Juan Battaglia took charge in the previous game against Nacional – hasn’t prevented them staying rooted to the bottom and destined for relegation back to the Intermedia. With just one win in fifteen it is highly unlikely they’ll pull off their first ever victory against Olimpia today. Sergio Samudio is their best chance of a goal.

Prediction: 2-1

Best Bet: Unlikely to back an Olimpia win just because you never know at the moment but I like BTTS because Olimpia have kept just one cleansheet all season.

Olimpia XI (probable): Martín Silva; Aquilino Giménez, Herminio Miranda, Salustiano Candia, Nelson Benítez; Wilson Pittoni, Eduardo Aranda, Sergio Orteman, Alejandro Silva; Juan Salgueiro, Enzo Prono

Cerro de Franco XI (probable): Juan Espínola; Gustavo Noguera, Jorge Agüero, Jorge Villar, Gustavo Velázquez; Miguel Godoy, Fulvio Duarte, Salvador Portillo, Reinaldo López; Leonardo Delvalle, Sergio Samudio

There is a live market of this game available on Betfair

For a list of my ‘Best Bets’ for all of the Week 4 games, visit Free Bets Sport for my preview

By Ralph Hannah