Paraguay Abroad: Brian Montenegro set for return to England and Leeds United

Brian Montenegro is only 21 but he’s already done the rounds locally having played for Tacuary, Rubio Ñu and more recently winning the league with Libertad and finishing Copa Libertadores runner-up with Nacional. He also had a spell with West Ham a couple of years ago and although he only played 12 minutes with the senior team in the FA Cup he did manage 12 goals in 12 games for the reserves.

Montenegro Full Name: Brian Guillermo Montenegro

 D.o.B: 10 June 1993

 Place of Birth: Asunción, Paraguay

 Height: 1.81 metres

 Weight: 75 kg

 Position: Striker/Left winger

Hardly blessed with pace but he makes up for it with excellent movement, a very tactically disciplined player which is probably why English clubs have shown more interest in him than other forwards from the 2013 U20s World Cup squad. His versatility is an asset, he can play up top usually in a two off a more physical striker or he can be used in a front three on the left hand side and is a provider of goals as much as he is a poacher.

He may have been a bit raw at West Ham but he’s now played in important matches and scored at the highest level in South America, the Copa Libertadores. Most recently he scored in the semi-final for Nacional against Defensor Sporting on their run to the final. Last year for Libertad he also managed two goals during their Copa Sudamericana campaign reaching the the semi finals. However, my favourite Montenegro goal is his spectacular bicycle kick at the U20s World Cup against Greece – LUFC fans could be enjoying more of this before Christmas!

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay U17s reach the final of the Copa Mexico Naciones

Congratulations to the Albirrojita who have reached the final of the 2014 Copa Mexico Naciones – the Paraguay U17s beat their Brazilian counterparts 4-3 on penalties having drawn 1-1 in normal time. On Sunday 10th August they will face another South American rival, Ecuador, in the legendary Azteca Stadium hoping to bring the trophy back to Paraguay.

This tournament is much like a “mini” World Cup and in the case of the South American sides it acts as a perfect warm up ahead of the 2015 Sudamericano to be held in Paraguay in March, the Sudamericano is a qualifier for the FIFA U17s World Cup which will take place in Chile.

Photo: Copa Mexico de Naciones

Photo: Copa Mexico Naciones

ROAD TO THE FINAL

4-0 vs Mexico “2”  – Echague, C.Ferreira (2), Orué

1-1 vs China – Valiente

1-2 vs USA – Valiente

4-1 vs Portugal (QF)- Valiente (2), R.Ferreira, Villalba

1-1 vs Brazil (SF) – Morel **Paraguay won 4-3 on penalties

Paraguay celebrate their penalty shootout win over Brazil - Photo: Copa Mexico de Naciones

Paraguay celebrate their penalty shootout win over Brazil – Photo: Copa Mexico Naciones

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STARS

Jonathan Valiente of Libertad has scored four goals so far and looks an exciting prospect, strong on the ball and happy to shoot from distance, definitely worth scribbling him down in your notepad.

Oscar Meza the goalkeeper made the key save against Brazil in the penalty shootout and played well in that game looking unfruffled by the verdeamarelho. When not with the national team you will find him representing Sportivo Luqueño.

Aturo Aranda is the captain, like Valiente he plays for Libertad who boast the best youth system in the country and has been the heartbeat of the side.

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Good luck on Sunday!! Vamos Paraguay!!

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay Talent: Jorge “Conejo” Benítez set for the Bundesliga

Guaraní’s 21-year-old striker Jorge Benítez is in Germany for his medical, the move is shrouded in secrecy but both Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach have been cited as possible destinations. The move abroad comes on the back of a brilliant season with Guaraní with the pacey forward managing 17 league goals with 11 coming in the final 8 games. His form also earned him his first senior cap for the Albirroja coming on for Roque Santa Cruz versus France in Nice. Here we profile one of the very few Paraguayans to land himself in a major European league straight from the Primera División.

Photo: Club Guaraní (http://www.clubguarani.com.py/)

Photo: Club Guaraní http://www.clubguarani.com.py/

 

Name: Jorge Daniel Benítez

D.o.B: 2nd September 1992

Place of Birth: Ñemby, Central

Position: Striker

Height: 1.82 metres

Weight: 84 kilos

Current Club: Guaraní

Previous Clubs: Rubio Ñu (loan)

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2014

 

 

The forward was a revelation during 2014 having been loaned out to Rubio Ñu for the 2013 Apertura after a frustrating time in the reserves with the Aborigen. But Spanish coach Fernado Jubero saw something in him and began giving “Conejo” some game time during the Clausura, he made 7 starts and popped up with 3 goals. Jubero was impressed with his return and was fully rewarded in the 2014 Apertura as Benítez formed a great partnership with fellow youngster Fernando Fernandez, the two scored 31 of the side’s 56 goals (the most in the league) firing them to 2nd place.

Benítez is deeply religious and courted controversy last year when he lifted his shirt to reveal a message stating that “God is the path to success”, the APF saw this as contravening FIFA regulations and initially banned him for 5 matches before being lifted on appeal. He isn’t known for any off-the-field antics, this blogger can’t even remember a local model being linked with him which is rare. Hopefully that mentality will allow him to buckle down in the Bundesliga in what is sure to be a difficult step up from the Primera División especially as Benítez has precious little experience in the international arena.

He will offer his new club plenty of pace and technical ability and will have to use his guile to make up for a lack of power. He’ll fare better playing in a two and will want to see the ball in front of him rather than receiving back to goal. But at 21 years old he is still adaptable and what he really will need, as proved by his early career, is confidence and plenty of it – if he believes in his ability then the goals should flow and we could well be welcoming home a new hero in time for the 2015 Copa América. Good luck Conejo!

 

By Ralph Hannah

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

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