U20s World Cup: Paraguay squad profile

Victor Genes did a wonderful job to guide Paraguay to 2nd place in the Sudamericano and almost won the tournament something they have only done once in 1971. The core of the team that did so well remains with some serious firepower added up front – Claudio Correa of Benfica joins Tonny Sanabria of Barcelona who did so well for the U17s he has been moved up an age group to try and bring glory in Turkey. Here we breakdown the squad to look at the strengths and weaknesses of this side. Group Fixtures and the full squad list are at the bottom.

Paraguay overcame Turkey in their first friendly - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Paraguay overcame Turkey in their first friendly – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Defence: Other than the two goals conceded in the last game against Colombia, the defence stood firm when the going got tough in the final round of the Sudamericano. Since January the three Cerro Porteño players have been involved in the first team with Teodoro Paredes considered a starter. The goalscoring centre-back Matias Perez wasn’t a mainstay with champions Nacional but has proved he is still a danger from set pieces scoring in the warm up game against Croatia. Gustavo Gómez has been used a lot by Libertad coach Ruben Israel. There is no doubt this defensive unit is even stronger than six months ago.

Midfield: Defensive midfield might be the weak link here, Iván Ramirez is excellent in a man-marking role (just ask Argentina´s Ricardo Centurión) but could struggle when asked to cover a wider area. Rubio Ñu duo Gustavo Viera and Angel Cardozo Lucena did seem to show signs of tiredness towards the end of the competition although they’ve seen more first team action now and maybe more suited to the rigours of football at this level. Looking further up the field and there are no worries in the shape of Miguel Almirón a wonderfully gifted footballer with all the makings of a top playmaker, he has come on as a substitute for Jonathan Fabbro several times at Cerro and made an impact when he scored his first senior goal, the winner, against Rubio Ñu in April.

Miguel Almirón is a great player with time on the ball - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Miguel Almirón is a great player with time on the ball – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Forwards: Oh wow. If you haven´t seen these boys before you are in for a treat. The front three is likely to be Benfica’s future signing Jorge Rojas on the right, Benfica’s existing signing Derlis Gonzalez on the left and Barcelona’s Tonny Sanabria down the middle. Rojas offers frightening pace while Derlis Gonzalez brings his skill and finishing touch to the albirrojita. As for Sanabria he is all of that combined, a really fantastic player who showed plenty of the talent that has made him the toast of La Masia, here is his double against Argentina in case you are in any doubt. Then there is the bench, another Benfica man Claudio Correa is a powerful striker as his nickname “Ogro” (ogre) might suggest, another man really pushing for a start is Cecilio Dominguez, he had three goals in four games for Sol de América and then popped up with the winner against Turkey in the recent friendly. The other striker is Brian Montenegro who can play on the left-hand side too, he is currently at Rubio Ñu but did have a spell at the West Ham academy last year.

Notable Absentees: Rodrigo Alborno of Inter Milan is injured, while Porto´s Maurito Caballero is still the victim of internal politics at the APF. It is a shame neither were on the plane to Turkey.

Paraguay victorious against Croatia in their final warm-up - Photo: Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay victorious against Croatia in their final warm-up – Photo: Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Fixtures

22 June vs Mali Kamil Ocak Stadium, Gaziantep (21:00  local time, 14:00 Paraguay time)

25 June vs Mexico Kamil Ocak Stadium, Gaziantep (18:00 local time, 11:00 Paraguay time)

28 June vs Greece Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium, Trabzon  (18:00 local time, 11:00 Paraguay time)

Full Squad List

Goalkeepers (3): Diego Morel (Libertad), Armando Vera (Libertad), Alejandro Bogado (Guaraní).

Defenders (7): Miller Mareco (Rubio Ñu), Teodoro Paredes (Cerro Porteño), Junior Alonso (Cerro Porteño), Gustavo Gómez (Libertad), Aquilino Giménez (Olimpia), Jorge “Manu” Balbuena (Cerro Porteño), Matías Pérez (Nacional)

Midfielders (7): Iván Ramírez (Libertad), Ángel Cardozo Lucena (Rubio Ñu), Robert Piris Da Motta (Rubio Ñu), Miguel Almirón (Cerro Porteño) , Gustavo Viera (Rubio Ñu), Juan Villamayor (Libertad)

Forwards (5): Brian Montenegro (Rubio Ñu), Claudio Correa (Benfica), Arnaldo Antonio “Tonny” Sanabria (FC Barcelona), Derlis González (Benfica), Cecilio Domínguez (Sol de América), Jorge Rojas (Benfica)

World Cup Qualifiers: Paraguay vs Chile – alternative striking options

Less than a month until Paraguay take on Chile with qualification only possible mathematically – in reality the albirroja would need a tremendous set of results to go their way if they were to make it on the plane to Brazil. One of the problems that has plagued Paraguay since the Salvador Cabañas tragedy is a goalscorer – Tata Martino, Chiqui Arce and now Gerardo Pelusso have all struggled to get the best out of the considerable striking talents available to them. Here we look at four alternatives to the tried and tested – Oscar Cardozo, Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo, and Lucas Barrios.

1. Raúl Bobadilla (FC Basel)

Born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents, the 25-year-old striker has been approached by Pelusso about nationalization to represent the country of his parentage. After a successful start to his career in Switzerland (with Concordia and Grasshoppers) the powerful and physical forward struggled with Borussia Monchengladbach and Aris with his fiery temper causing problems with managers. He earned a move to his current club having impressed in the Europa League with Young Boys.

2. Adrian Fernandez (Independiente)

Just a year or so ago this kid was knocking around in the reserves of “El Rojo” who were thinking of letting him go, fast forward to the present day and the Paraguayan that had progressed through the ranks at Cerro Porteño is saving the Argentine giants from the drop thanks to his goals. He has four in four and the first strike against Tigre (see below) is an indication of the wonderful technique this left-footer possesses. Arguably a risk to throw in a 2o-year-old with little first team experience into a World Cup Qualifier although he has certainly proved that he isn’t one to shy from the big occassion.

3. Derlis Gonzalez (Benfica)

While we are sticking with youth why not give Derlis Gonzalez a chance? The Benfica forward shined during the U20s Sudamericano and his electric pace and ball control is likely to scare the Chilean defence. Again the questions are over temperament and maturity but Pelusso is at a stage when it is worth trying something new,  after all  he has scored against Chile before.

4. Pablo Velazquez (Libertad)

The big man was given 12 minutes in a losing cause against Ecuador but his form in the local league could convince Pelusso to give him a start. While his left foot and physical appearance might tempt you to draw conclusions with Oscar Cardozo, the Libertad man is more involved in the approach play, especially holding up the ball and bringin his teammates into play. Tacuara has always been a poacher but Velazquez can offer more outside of the area.

Of course there are many more names – Robin Ramirez isn’t having the best time at Pumas but he is still a great player, Edgar Benitez and José Ariel Nuñez have  both been used by Pelusso recently as has former Olimpia man Luis Caballero. On the youth scene there is Maurito Caballero who is currently with Porto’s youth side and although he is in the Spanish 2nd division it is hard to overlook Carlos Javier Acuña’s scoring exploits with Girona (14 goals in 19 games), maybe the Real Madrid man is ready to step up a level?

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013: Paraguay U17s qualify for the hexagonal final

For all the problems facing the senior side, at youth level the Paraguayan national teams are bringing plenty of hope to the nation that the future is full of promise. Earlier this year we reported on the Paraguay U20s who qualified for the U20s World Cup in Turkey by finishing runners-up in the Sudamericano. The U17s have taken the first step in emulating that achievement by qualifying for the final stages of the Sudamericano in their respective age group with minds firmly focussed on the World Cup in United Arab Emirates.

The U17s celebrate their passage to the final round - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguay de Fútbol

The U17s celebrate their passage to the final round – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguay de Fútbol

The player everybody was interested in seeing before the tournament was Barcelona’s Antonio ‘Tonny’ Sanabria who has impressed at every age level in his time at La Masia to date. The APF had fought long and hard to have him represent this age group and while Barcelona were unwilling to release him for friendlies (apart from two games in January) they have no choice in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament and Sanabria has been more than happy to represent the country of his birth. He has lived up to expectations scoring twice in the win against hosts Argentina, the second a real peach, before adding to his account against Ecuador today. That triumph over the albiceleste was historic, only once before in 1997 have Paraguay won at this level against their neighbours with Salvador Cabañas getting on the scoresheet on that occassion.

Sanabria is on the books of Barcelona - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Sanabria is on the books of Barcelona – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Another player with three goals to his name is 15-year-old Jesus Medina who is one of many products of the excellent conveyer belt at Libertad, he scored a double against Ecuador in the most recent game. Medina, who doesn’t turn 16 until the end of this month, came to the fore during the 2012 Apertura playing in the final game of the tournament against Rubio Ñu and impressing people with some outrageous skills and searing pace. Althoug his mohican haircut did leave a lot to be desired.

Medina celebrates his latest goal - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguay de Fútbol

Medina celebrates his latest goal – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguay de Fútbol

The final game is against Venezuela where they will almost certainly secure top spot unless they suffer a heavy defeat. Congratulations to the team and coaching staff – FUERZA PARAGUAY!

RESULTS SO FAR

vs Colombia D 1-1 (Jesus Medina)

vs Argentina W 3-1 (Antonio Sanabria 2, Alex Cáceres)

vs Ecuador W 3-0 (Jesus Medina 2, Antonio Sanabria)

FULL SQUAD

Credit: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Credit: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Sudamericano 2013: Paraguay U20s report card

Despite the dampener of defeat on the final day (just look at their faces in the photo below!) the Paraguay U20s players and coaching staff should be very pleased with their performances in Mendoza which culminated in a 2nd place finish and of course an invaluable spot in the U20s World Cup which takes place later this year in Turkey.

Sad faces despite qualification! - Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Sad faces despite qualification! – Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Here I’ve done a quick report card for the main squad members, like all ratings systems of this kind it isn’t perfect but hopefully gives you an idea of the major performers and the ones to look out for over the course of the year.

Diego Morel (Goalkeeper, Libertad)

Diego Morel - AFP/Daniel Garcia

Diego Morel – AFP/Daniel Garcia

Started the tournament with a howler that cost them the game against Colombia but as the competition progressed he proved to be a very good shot stopper and a safe pair of hands, needs improvement under the high ball and command of his area. 6/10

Teodoro Paredes (Centre-back/Right-back, Cerro Porteño)

Teodoro Paredes - AP Photo/Walter Moreno

Teodoro Paredes – AP Photo/Walter Moreno

The big man from Caaguazú showed plenty of power and strength but also has the technique to be comfortable at full back, his disciplinary record let him down with four yellow cards in the tournament it isn’t a mental problem more a question of timing his tackles. 7/10

Gustavo Gomez (Centre-back, Libertad)

Gustavo Gomez  - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Gustavo Gomez – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

The captain was very strong  throughout the Sudamericano, he’ll be disappointed with his sending off but in general he defended well, marshalled his troops and almost led them onto glory. 8/10

Matías Perez (Centre-back, Nacional)

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile - Photo: D10.com.py

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile – Photo: D10.com.py

A good tournament from a player who has played his fair share of senior football already, his three goals are evidence of his strength from set pieces and in general he was unruffled at the back. 7/10

Jorge Manuel Balbuena (Left wing-back, Cerro Porteño)

Balbuena looked good at times going forward, strong in patches defensively but didn’t shine consistently and it wasn’t easy with the defender often helplessly exposed at left wing-back. 6/10

Jorge Rojas (Right wing-back/Right winger/Attacking midfielder, Cerro Porteño)

Jorge Rojas (with hair!) -  Photo: abc.com.py

Jorge Rojas (with hair!) – Photo: abc.com.py

Arguably the best performer in the side he showed pace, power, dribbling skills and awareness to finish the Sudamericano with 2 goals and 3 assists. His versatility was something new, we are used to him as an out-and-out winger with the azulgrana but Víctor Genes moved him into a central role for some games where he impressed. Sure to have caught the eye of some European scouts. 9/10

Rodrigo Alborno (Left midfield, Novara)

Rodrigo Alborno's goal at the tournament - Photo: ABC

Rodrigo Alborno’s goal at the tournament – Photo: ABC

More was expected from Alborno, if only because he has been so good at Inter Milan and is now a Serie B regular – there were certainly flashes of his talent including that well-taken goal against Chile but he let himself down at times with the basics, short passing and deliveries from the dead ball. 6/10

Miguel Almirón (Central midfield, Cerro Porteño)

 Miguel Almiron

Miguel Almiron

A revelation in the middle, while he looks like a stick insect he is full of energy and was a yard quicker than most of the midfielders in the tournament. A lovely range of passing with an eye for the important through ball he also has that canny knack of making room for himself in crowded spots of the pitch. 8/10

Derlis Gonzalez (Striker, Benfica)

The Benfica striker was excellent  - Photo: D10.com.py

The Benfica striker was excellent – Photo: D10.com.py

Solid proof that there are benefits to leaving for Europe at a young age if you are going to get regular football, his time with the Benfica II side has seen Gonzalez develop much more tactical nouse while he still frightens defenders with his searing pace and his clinical finishing. An excellent tournament finishing with 4 goals and 2 assists and maybe posing a question to Pelusso and the senior side. 9/10

Cecilio Dominguez (Striker, Sol de América)

Cecilio Dominguez battles for the ball

Cecilio Dominguez battles for the ball

More than a ‘number 9′ he showed that he is a well rounded player with good skill and the ability to play in a three or a two up front. The fact he only scored one goal doesn’t mean he played badly, he brings in the players around him and created a good partnership with Derlis Gonzalez. 7/10

Others

Juan Villamayor (Striker, Libertad) – nippy, good set piece delivery

Ivan Ramirez (Midfielder, Libertad) – one tremendous performance against Argentina, essentially a ball winner

Angel Lucena (Midfielder, Rubio Ñu) – got better during the competition, needs to improve balance between attacking and defending

Robert Piris (Midfielder, Rubio Ñu) – didn’t impose himself as much as expected considering the amount of senior football he has played, still a talent worth watching

Brian Montenegro (Forward, Tacuary) – inconsistent but at times was very good especially drifting to left to create space for Derlis Gonzalez

Junior Alonso (Defender, Cerro Porteño) – two important goals and clearly a quality left-back but not as suited to being a wing-back

Miller Mareco (Defender, Libertad) – game in during the final stages and like Alonso looks better in a more defensive role

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay defeat Uruguay and are on the verge of making history

Heavy rain in Mendoza coupled with the heavy legs of a group of teenagers that have played a lot of competitive football in a short space of time meant this game was hardly a classic. In the first half both sides found it hard to create chances and throughout the match these two physical sides resorted to breaking up moves by unfair means, in total there were 39 fouls.

Paraguay starting XI - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay starting XI – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

For the eighth time in this tournament the albirrojita’s goal was from a set piece, a Jorge Rojas corner was met at the near post by Cecilio Dominguez who flicked the ball towards the back post where Junior Alonso was on hand to turn in his second goal of the tournament. It put Paraguay in the driving seat with just 30 mins to go and they were helped when opposing midfielder Sebastian Cristoforo was sent off for leading with the arm.

Drama ensued in the final minutes when Cecilio Dominguez handballed a header inside the 18-yard-box and the referee pointed to the spot. Diego Rolán stepped up to take the penalty which would have levelled the match giving the Celeste the point they needed to qualify for the World Cup however he skied his attempt, Paraguayan commentators pointing to “champions luck”. On Sunday we’ll find out if the commentators are right, just a point needed versus Colombia to secure the first title since 1971, the second ever.

DT Victor Genes, has done his reputation the world of good in this tournament - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

DT Victor Genes, has done his reputation the world of good in this tournament – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay XI:  Diego Morel; Miller Mareco, Gustavo Gómez, Rubén Monges, Junior Alonso; Ángel Lucena, Miguel Almirón, Jorge Rojas, Rodrigo Alborno; Derlis González, Cecilio Domínguez

Match Stats (Paraguay first)

Shots on Target: 1-4

Attempts at Goal: 6-8

Fouls: 21-18

Yellow Cards: 2-3

Red Cards: 0-1

Corners: 3-4

Possession: 44%-56%

Sudamericano 2013 Hexagonal Final: Paraguay vs Uruguay preview

Paraguay vs Uruguay
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
30/01/2013; 22:00 (00:00 GMT)

A day after the Boca vs River clásico that went to penalties the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas plays host to another triple-header of U20s football with Paraguay and Uruguay last on the bill. It will be interesting to see what state the pitch is in, of course the albirrojita hardly need a carpet playing surface considering they rarely have more possession than there opponents.

Paraguay are relaxed following their qualification - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay are relaxed following their qualification – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Juan Villmayor’s late winner against Ecuador has put Paraguay in the World Cup and has earned him a place in the starting line-up against the Celeste. However, there are no signs that Victor Genes will field a weakened team, far from it, now that they have secured qualification the next step is to try and win these final two games and obtain only their second Sudamericano title, the only one to date was achieved in 1971. Teodoro Paredes is suspended for this match so Libertad’s Ruben Monges (who made his senior debut last year) is set to come in. The midfield is likely to remain the same with Jorge Rojas operating in the free role.

Paraguay left it late in their previous meeting with Uruguay - Photo: Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay left it late in their previous meeting with Uruguay – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Uruguay have the tournament topscorer in Nicolas López and his strike partner Diego Rolán has plenty of pace to disrupt the back three. The last meeting with Paraguay was a friendly in Capiatá on 26 November 2012, it was a thriller with the visitors 2-0 up before Arnaldo Gimenez and Fulvio Chavez netted one a piece in the final five minutes to earn Paraguay the draw. Neither of the goalscorers from that night are in this squad but it just epitomises the spirit this side has.

Paraguay XI (possible): Diego Morel; Ruben Monges, Gustavo Gómez, Matías Perez; Miller Mareco, Angel Lucena, Miguel Almiron, Jorge Balbuena; Jorge Rojas; Derlis Gonzalez, Juan Villamayor

Prediction: Could well be a draw, I’m expecting goals 2-2

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay Talent: Richard Ortiz closing in on move to Genoa in Serie A

****AUTHORS NOTE: Since the time of writing this deal has fallen through, however still a good player to read more about! ****

One of the best young Paraguayan players still in the country is set to make a long-awaited move to Italy where he has been of interest for a long time having travelled to the Mediterranean country during his recovery process from a serious injury inflicted on him by Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia during the Paraguay vs Ecuador World Cup Qualifier. Here is a bit more information about the player set to join Marcelo Estigarribia, Edgar Barreto and Ivan Piris in the top division of Italian football.

Richard Ortiz - Photo: Olimpia.com.py

Richard Ortiz – Photo: Olimpia.com.py

Name: Richard Ortiz

D.o.B: 22 May 1990

Place of Birth: Villa Ygatimí, Canindeyú

Position: Left Back/Defensive Midfielder

Height: 1.74 metres

Current Club: Olimpia

Previous Clubs: 8 de Diciembre (Villa Ygatimí); Sportivo Iteño

VIDEO PROFILE

A versatile player who is listed at a midfielder on Olimpia’s website owing to the fact he played most of the 2012 Clausura in the middle yet he made his international debut under Chiqui Arce playing at left back in a World Cup Qualifier against Uruguay. That night he looked shaky for the first 15 minutes before putting in a tremendous performance to neutralise Napoli’s Edison Cavani before becoming an instant hero with the albirroja fans when he poked home a last minute equaliser to save Paraguay from their first ever home defeat to the charrúas.

His career was hampered in the very next home qualifier against Ecuador where he was on the end of a poor challenge from Valencia that ruptured ligaments. Fortunately he hasn’t lost any of that combative style that epitomises his game and is still brutally strong in the tackle yet shows good technical capability that has allowed him to transition seamlessly into midfield.

He was born and raised in very humble surroundings near the border with Brazil, his father a self-subsistent farmer is more comfortable in Guaraní than Spanish which is typical of many Paraguayans from the countryside. Ortiz’s lack of economic resources almost cut short his blossoming football career, the cost of boots and equipment plus the lack of income (youth footballers in Paraguay usually earn way below the minimum wage) meant he returned home to help his parents on the chacra (farm). However, he couldn’t keep away from football and fortunately financial support transpired and he was able to pursue his dream. He was an adult by the time that he was signed by Olimpia (in 2009), from then second division club Sportivo Iteño based in Itá just outside Asunción. Although he started in the reserves he went onto make his first senior appearance that same year. His agent, Diego Serrati, describes him as “straight-forward and down-to-earth” on the personal front before adding “He’s a complete player, multi-functional and puts in consistent performances”.

It will be interesting to see how Genoa decide to use their new signing (assuming the deal goes through), if he does revert to left full-back he will be in direct competition with Benfica’s Lorenzo Melgarejo for that spot in the national team, just the kind of healthy competition that the Paraguayan senior side needs at the moment. Talking about rivalry and he will find himself pitted against compatriot Marcelo Estigarribia who plays for Sampdoria the opponents in the hotly-contest Genovese derby. He is likely to cost the club around 3 million dollars owing to the fact he recently signed an extension with Olimpia, that money is much needed by El Decano who have mounting debts and are behind on wage payments.

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay qualify for the U20s World Cup in Turkey

Juan Villamayor’s late goal was enough to overcome Ecuador and take Paraguay to the U20s World Cup in Turkey, they become the 13th nation to book their ticket to the showpiece tournament and the 2nd side from CONMEBOL after Colombia who also won last night. It is the eighth time the albirrojita have made it to this stage, most recently in 2009 where they reached the last 16. Qualification is great news for the APF who have invested a lot of the 2010 World Cup money into youth development, opening new state of the art pitches in Ñu Guazu on the edge of Asunción, and have housed 100s of players from U15s upwards every week at the high performance centre in Ypané. It is no surprise that APF President Juan Angel Napout was in Mendoza last night to watch the latest stars in the production line, Gerardo Pelusso has also been keeping a close eye on the progress of these youngsters.

Paraguay celebrate their qualification to the World Cup in Turkey - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay celebrate their qualification to the World Cup in Turkey – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay’s excellent  preparation for this competition – which has involved not just the weekly sessions mentioned above but also international friendlies against the likes of Brazil, Uruguay and participations in cuadrangular tournaments – is evidenced by their ability to come back into games from losing positions, strength at set pieces and also their high fitness levels. Nine of their 14 goals have come in the final half hour a sign of their dominance in the later stages of games. Last night was no exception, the winner coming in the 86th minute from substitute Juan Villmayor, the tiny Libertad forward whipped in a freekick that evaded everybody and sneaked into the corner.

The goal was nothing less that Paraguay deserved based on an improved second-half performance, they managed to contain Ecuador’s captain and playmaker Uchuari and began to build several good moves from the back spearheaded by Miguel Almirón in central midfield. Before the goal Derlis Gonzalez had scored only to be ruled off (correctly) for offside and Teodoro Paredes had crashed a header onto the bar.

Teodoro Paredes heads onto the bar - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Teodoro Paredes heads onto the bar – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Surprisingly this was Paraguay’s first cleansheet of the competition, although they can point to the joint second best defensive record amongst the finalists along with Chile so even in their weakest area they are at the front of the pack. This could be the beginning of a new golden age for Paraguayan football just when the senior side look to be losing their sparkle.

Starting XI vs Ecuador - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Starting XI vs Ecuador – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay XI: Diego Morel; Teodoro Paredes, Gustavo Gómez, Matías Pérez; Miller Mareco, Ángel Cardozo Lucena, Miguel Almirón, Manuel Balbuena; Jorge Rojas, Derlis González, Cecilio Domínguez

Subs: Juan Villamayor for Cecilio Dominguez, Rodrigo Alborno for Manuel Balbuena, Robert Piris for Teodoro Paredes

Next Fixture: Uruguay, Weds 30 Jan, 22:00 Paraguay time (00:00 GMT)

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013 Hexagonal Final: Paraguay fight back to earn draw with Peru

Paraguay vs Peru
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
(0-1) 1-1 – Junior Alonso; Araujo

For the fifth time in six matches in this tournament Paraguay entered the break a goal down, for the first time in the competition they drew a game. It was a disjointed performance in possession once again for Victor Genes’ side yet they created the best chances in the first half with Derlis Gonzalez looking good in particular. Peru got the opener following a set piece that was poorly defended, Matias Perez in no-man’s land inadvertantly diverting his header onto the head of Araujo.

The second half was a stronger showing from the albirrojita yet it needed a set piece nine minutes from time to salvage a point, Rodrigo Alborno’s delivery was met firmly by substitute Junior Alonso. The Cerro Porteño defender hadn’t featured since the opening game so this was some way to reprieve himself.

Next up is Ecuador on Sunday, a win will secure a berth in Turkey (barring a bizarre combination of results).

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013 Hexagonal Final: Paraguay vs Peru preview

Paraguay vs Peru
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
23/01/2013; 19:45 (22:45 GMT)

Arguably just a win away from the World Cup in Turkey, following their excellent victory over Chile, the Paraguayans take on a talented Peru side who played well against Uruguay only to lose. As we’ve seen so far, the albirrojita are best on the counter attack and that should suit them against a Peruvian side who dominated possession against the Celeste only to come unstuck against the pace of their opponent’s attack. With players like Jorge Rojas and Derlis Gonzalez, Paraguay will hope to play in a similar style.

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile - Photo: D10.com.py

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile – Photo: D10.com.py

Victor Genes seems to have settled on the 4-4-2 formation having experimented with three at the back earlier in the competition, his captain Gustavo Gómez has to sit out having been sent off against Chile but Teodoro Paredes returns from his suspension to slot in at centre-back. The main doubts are in central midfield with a decision between Ivan Ramirez or Miguel Almirón, both have shown great quality but Ramirez offers a more defensive option while Almirón is a better link to the forwards. The other question mark hangs over the striker to partner the excellent Derlis Gonzalez, Cecilio Dominguez is stronger holding up the ball and in my opinion has had a better tournament but Brian Montenegro has a tendency to drift out to the left which creates more space for the Benfica starlet. It is a tough decision.

Peru have got some talented players in Jordi Reyna and the captain Torrejón is excellent in the middle keeping moves ticking over with his short passing and intelligent movement. Their problem is at the back and they must defend well to get a result from this game, if the match becomes stretched it will favour the Paraguayans on the counter attack.

Paraguay XI (possible): Diego Morel; Miller Marecos, Teodoro Paredes, Matías Perez, Jorge Balbuena; Jorge Rojas, Angel Lucena, Miguel Almiron, Rodrigo Alborno; Derlis Gonzalez, Brian Montenegro

Stats:  Paraguay vs Peru head-to-head in Sudamericano Sub 20 –  Pld 13 W 10 D 1 L 2 GF 32 GA 15 (via Andres Riquelme)

Prediction: Paraguay will sneak a win, 2-1