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

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers: Paraguay vs Argentina preview

Paraguay vs Argentina
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
10/09/2013; 21:40 hrs (02:40 hrs BST)
CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifier
TV: SNT, Telefuturo (Paraguay)

The 97th meeting between Paraguay and Argentina takes place tonight in what is expected to be a packed Defensores del Chaco. What seems to be a new dawn for the Albirroja has come too late in the qualifying stages to propel them to Brazil (by the time of kick off it may not even be mathematically possible to reach the playoffs) but there is plenty of hope and interest in Victor Genes´ group of players. Argentina can secure direct qualification with a win, they also have a score to settle here in Asunción having lost the previous two qualifiers here.

Paraguay prepare for Argentina - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de futbol

Paraguay prepare for Argentina – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de futbol

Genes has done brilliantly in his opening two games to blend a mix of youngsters and experienced players and instil them all with confidence to play good football and not be afraid to keep possession. It was something that Arce couldn’t seem to instruct his players to do and something Pelusso didn’t really want his teams to do. Reports suggest he will go to a back four in this game with Samudio and Marcos Cáceres the full backs but maintaining a midfield three with Ortiz, Ayala and Riveros offering protection to the attacking trio of Jonathan Fabbro, Roque Santa Cruz and one other, possibly José Ariel Nuñez. The inclusion of Riveros is definitely a nod to the player’s experience in these important qualifiers. Roque had a superb game against Bolivia and has now scored in his last two qualifiers. In goal Roberto Fernandez could become the 48th player used in the qualification campaign.

Fabbro lines up against the country of his birth - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Fabbro lines up against the country of his birth – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Argentina are with Messi and Aguero up front which will cause plenty of problems, although Paraguay drew with Germany they conceded three and you would certainly align Argentina´s attacking talents with that of the Europeans. Da Silva and Candia are set to be tested consistently and it would be something of a miracle if they manage to keep a third straight cleansheet against Argentina in the Defensores del Chaco.

Paraguay XI (Possible): Roberto Fernández; Marcos Cáceres, Salustiano Candia, Paulo Da Silva, Miguel Samudio; Víctor Ayala, Cristian Riveros, Richard Ortiz; Jonathan Fabbro; Roque Santa Cruz, José Ariel Núñez

Argentina XI (Possible): Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Fabricio Coloccini, Hugo Campagnaro, José Basanta; Lucas Biglia, Fernando Gago, Ángel Di María; Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Rodrigo Palacio

Prediction: 1-1

SELECTED ODDS: Paraguay win 4.9, Draw 3.75, Argentina win 1.86; Under 2.5 Goals 1.98; BTTS 1.84

BEST BET: BTTS worked well last time and I can see Paraguay scoring (set piece Ayala assist probably) and it is unlikely they keep a cleansheet



Argentina haven’t beaten Paraguay away in a world cup qualifier since 1997, for more history check out this post

Paraguay vs Argentina Head-to-Head (World Cup Qualifiers)

Pld 15 W 2 D 8 L 5 GF 12 GA 20

There is a whole blog post dedicated to stats which you can check out here it is only missing the previous qualifier which Argentina won 3-1



Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina

Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina


By Ralph Hannah

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers: Paraguay vs Bolivia preview

Paraguay vs Bolivia
Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
09/06/2012, 16.00 hs (21.00 BST)
CONEMBOL World Cup Qualifier
TV: SNT, Telefuturo (Paraguay)

Victor Genes started his tenure well with a credible 3-3 draw against Germany in Kaiserslautern having turned his back on much of the old guard that had been features of the qualifying campaign to date. Instead there is an exciting crop of young players including a large contingent from Genes´U20s squad. The most exciting prospect is undoubtedly Antonio Sanabria of Barcelona who made his Paraguay debut against Germany but an appearance against Bolivia would lock him in as a Paraguayan international in FIFA´s eyes and denying Spain the possibilty of snapping the striker up. For more on the squad you can check the earlier blog post here. 

Photo courtesy of Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya

Photo courtesy of Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya

Genes went for three at the back against Germany although one of his central defenders is unavailable having been sent home by the Paraguayan national team’s medical staff. Pablo Aguilar´s low platelet count, which the player says hasn’t affected him at Tijuana, was deemed by doctors as too risky to allow the ex-Luque man to play. With Antolín Alcaraz also injured it means 20-year-old Gustavo Gómez is set to partner Da Silva and Candia. Fabbro could also start as the playmaker behind Paraguay’s all-time topscorer Roque Santa Cruz and the newest hope, Antonio Sanabria. Victor Ayala will be on set pieces, the source of 3 of Paraguay’s last 4 goals in home World Cup Qualifiers. Wilson Pittoni retains his place having dominated the German midfield in a riproaring first half display in Kaiserslautern.

Paraguay train in Ypané sunset - Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya

Paraguay train in Ypané sunset – Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya

Bolivia are set to field a young team, they have a lot of players on yellow cards and want to save them for the more winnable home game against Ecuador. There is no Alejandro Chumacero, Rony Jiménez, or Henry Justiniano amongst others. The local paper La Razón suggests that the Spaniard Xabier Azkargorta will line his team up defensively with five defenders in a bid to try and stifle Paraguay and earn a draw. Having said that the dangermen Rudy Cardozo and Marcelo Martins are included, I imagine Cardozo to be the main threat on the break with his pace a potential problem.

Paraguay XI (Probable): Anthony Silva; Salustiano Candia, Paulo de Silva, Gustavo Gómez; Victor Ayala, Wilson Pittoni, Richard Ortiz, Miguel Samudio; Jonathan Fabbro; Anotnio Sanabria, Roque Santa Cruz

Prediction: Paraguay´s home record isn’t what it used to be but you have to go back to a friendly in 2007 for a Bolivia win away, they should edge this 2-0

SELECTED ODDS: Paraguay win 1.44, Draw 4.8, Bolivia win 9.8, 2-0  home win 7.4, Under 2.5 goals 1.69

BEST BET: All Paraguay’s goals at home have come in the 2nd half during this qualification campaign, so I like Draw/Paraguay with a small stake



There is a Bolivia vs Paraguay Stat Attack which includes every game apart from the most recent meeting, the 3-1 loss in La Paz – here are some head-to-heads updated


Paraguay vs Bolivia Overall

Pld 65 W 32 D 17 L 14 GF 123 GA 65

Paraguay vs Bolivia World Cup Qualifiers

Pld 15 W 8 D 3 L 4 GF 29 GA 16

Paraguay vs Bolivia World Cup Qualifiers in Paraguay

Pld 7 W 7 D 0 L 0 GF 21 GA 3


Paraguay Squad

Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina

Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina


By Ralph Hannah

Author’s Note: All odds via Betfair and correct at the time of writing

Paraguay Abroad: Why is Oscar Romero moving to Baniyas SC?

At the time of writing the deal is all but done between Cerro Porteño and Baniyas SC of the United Arab Emirates for one of Paraguay´s brightest young stars Oscar Romero. The left-footed playmaker who is one half of the Romero double-act (his twin brother Angel is also making waves with the azulgrana as a striker) is set to head to the Middle East after this round of World Cup Qualifiers. He has been re-called to the senior Paraguay squad having made his debut against Germany.

The Romero twins - Photo:

The Romero twins – Photo:

The obvious question is why is such a promising talent moving to what is probably a less competitive league than he is currently in, especially when there is a possibility that a European club will have noticed his considerable talent. The obvious answer is money. At this point I should probably roll out some such cliché as “football is a business now” and curse modern football and of course Daniel Campos, the footballer’s agent, for brokering this move that could “end” Romero’s career before it has even started. However, it might be a good time to take a reality check.

If the reported figures are correct then Cerro Porteño will receive 1.8 million dollars to loan Oscar Romero for 10 months, the player will earn 120,000 dollars a month and get a 300,000 dollar signing on fee. In other words he will receive 1.5 million dollars.

1.5 MILLION DOLLARS! Right now the kid is likely to earn 1.6 million guaranies a month, the minimum wage, which is usually given to players who have just broken through from the youth team. It is equivalent to $360 a month. “But the money goes much further in Paraguay ” those of you reading from abroad are thinking. Yes, but not that far. It is about $10 dollars a day once you remove national insurance payments (or the Paraguayan equivalent IPS).

Oscar Romero is from Fernando de la Mora, it is a satellite of Asunción, no offence to people who live there but it is your run-of-the-mill town for people who can’t afford the house prices or rental rates in the capital. They were brought up by their mum and grandmother, the dad was nowhere to be seen. In their early teens the 1986 World Cup midfielder, Adolfino Cañete, spotted their talents and they made the pilgramage of so many young Paraguayans searching for riches as they left Paraguay for Buenos Aires. For 18 months they played for Boca Juniors but a contract offer didn’t appear. Since 2008 the twins have been on Cerro’s books, the youth facilities are 25 kilometres away which on a Paraguayan bus in 40c heat can be a bit of a pain to say the least. Fortunately once they broke into the senior sideanother famous set of brothers, the Salcedos (Santiago and José Domingo), helped them out giving the youngsters lifts to training.

Angel Romero pictured with twin brother Oscar - Photo:

Angel Romero pictured with twin brother Oscar – Photo:

In an interview just under a year ago the brothers dreamt about moving to Italy, England or Spain – Baniyas SC wasn’t on either player’s list and the idea of being split up was also something they preferred not to consider. But now the money is on the table, a huge pile of it, and the reality sets in. After just one month´s wages even taking away taxes and the agent´s cut Oscar Romero can buy a house in Fernando de la Mora for his mum, the next month he could get his grandmother one, if he gets the right advice a lot of that money will go into land just outside the capital. With Paraguay´s economy growing fast and the young population needing housing near their places of work it shouldn’t be long until Romero sees a return on that investment.

So while the Champions League was always the footballing dream, you don’t say no to a million-dollar offer from a club you’ve never heard of when there are mouths to feed and other dreams to be realized.

I wish him luck, I’ll miss watching him in the local league and I hope the Middle East is just a springboard to a career in Europe so we can all get to see that wonderful left foot and ability to find the only bit of space in a packed midfield to work his magic.

By Ralph Hannah

2014 World Cup Qualifiers: Paraguay squad to face Argentina & Bolivia confirmed

Victor Genes has confirmed his squad of 25 players to take on Argentina and Bolivia in September, both games taking place in the Defensores del Chaco.

The first qualifier will take place on September 6th at 18:30  hs local time followed by the crunch clash with Argentina on September 10th as Messi and co visit town.

The chance of World Cup Qualification is slim but confidence is high following a very good draw with Germany in a friendly earlier this month. The majority of that side keep their place but there are surprise call ups for Sol de América´s goalkeeper Roberto Acosta and veteran midfielder Sergio Aquino of Libertad. The in-form youngsters Angel Romero and Brian Montenegro are also included

There is still no place fore Lucas Barrios, Oscar Cardozo nor Nelson Haedo Valdez so the goals will have to come from all-time topscorer Roque or possibly José Ariel Nuñez who found the scoresheet for the first time in the albirroja against Germany. Antolin Alcaraz still out with injury and there is not a single European-based defender in the team – maybe that is the key to stop Messi? Who knows!


Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina

Paraguay squad to play Bolivia and Argentina

By Ralph Hannah

Copa Sudamericana 2013: Atletico Nacional vs Guaraní preview

Atletico Nacional vs Guaraní
Atanasio Girardot, Medellín
27/08/2013; 21:00 (02:00 BST)
2nd Preliminary Round, 2nd Leg (2-0 Agg)
TV: Fox Sports (Latin America)

The winless streak is now four games, something that must end if Guaraní are to qualify for the final 16 in the Copa Sudamericana. It won’t be easy in the green-sea of the Atanasio Girardot with Atletico Nacional going through a purple patch, five games – five wins and just one goal conceded. In the previous round Inti Gas were mauled 4-0 here, Jhon Valoy getting a brace.

Photo: Prensa Club Guarani

Photo: Prensa Club Guarani

Guaraní drew on Friday but at least they found the net ending almost 300 minutes without one. In the 2-2 draw Jorge Benitez and Dario Ocampo were on the scoresheet and both will be pushing for a starting spot tonight. In the first leg the Cabral and Cáceres partnership was at its worst, the former scoring an own goal with the latter looking every bit his 33 years of age. Those two must be on fine form tonight to help protect young Alfredo Aguilar in goal who deputises for the injured Aurrecochea.

Atletico Nacional looked comfortable in the opener and Sherman Cardenas was the stand out player as he kept everything ticking over in the verde midfield. Valoy looked dangerous when he came on and all over the pitch there were attacking options.

Today is Guaraní´s first trip to Medellín having visited Bogotá, Cali and Ibagué previously.

Guaraní XI (probable): Alfredo Aguilar; Eduardo Fillippini, Luis Cabral, Julio Cesar Caceres, Edgar Aranda; Juan Aguilar, Miguel Paniagua, Jorge Mendoza, Dario Ocampo; Jorge Benítez, Rodrigo Teixeira

Atletico Nacional XI (probable):  Franco Armani, Francisco Nájera, Diego Peralta, Juan Valencia, Alexis Henriquez; Alexander Mejia, Stefan Medina, Alejandro Bernal, Sherman Cárdenas, Wilder Guisao, Fernando Uribe

Prediction: 3-0

Selected Odds: Atletico Nacional win 1.41, Draw 4.7, Guarani win 10.5, 3-0 home win 10.0, Over 2.5 goals 1.9

Best Bet: Can’t see much hope for Guaraní and the home win isn’t amazing value so prefer to go for Over 2.5 goals.


Stats and Trivia

Guaraní have never played in Medellín before

Guaraní vs Colombian opposition  (All Continental Competitions)

Pld 13 W 2 D 5 L 6 GF 15 GA 22

Guaraní away to Colombian opposition (All Continental Competitions)

Pld 6 W 0 D 3 L 3 GF 5 GA 11

Guaraní last five away in Copa Sudamericana

Pld 5 W 2 D 2 L 1 GF 8 GA 6 



1. Pablo Aurrecochea

2. Robert Aldama

3. Elvis Marecos

4. Eduardo Filippini

5. Julio Cesar Caceres

6. Jorge Mendoza

7. Rodrigo Teixeira

8. Miguel Paniagua

9. Federico Santander

10. Ivan Gonzalez

11. Guido Di Vanni

12. Alfredo Aguilar

13. Edgar Aranda

14. Tomas Bartomeus

15. Dario Ocampo

16. Jorge Benitez

17. Luis De la Cruz

18. Luis Cabral

19. Eric Cristaldo

20. Juan Aguilar

21. Ivan Vargas

22. Derlis Gonzalez

23. Joel Roman

24. Juan Patiño

25. Alex Bogado

26. Guillermo Peña

27. Nildo Viera

28. Armando Ruiz Diaz

29. Luis Gonzalez

30. Marcelo Paredes

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

For more football previews check out CaStRoF’s betting tips