Paraguay vs Panama
Estadio General Pablo Rojas a.k.a La Olla
(0-0) 1-0 – Jonathan Santana ’87
A late goal from substitute Jonathan Santana, his first international goal in 32 appearances, was enough to earn the Albirroja a victory over Panama despite having played most of the match with ten men. Cerro Porteño’s stadium welcomed 9,554 fans who expected nothing less than an easy win, especially with the presence of the much feted World Cup stars (or mundialistas in local vernacular). But rather than an exhibition of flowing football they were ‘treated’ to the most traditional of Paraguayan qualities, hard graft as the ten men in red and white presented Chiqui Arce with his sixth win after ten games in charge.
Paraguay lined-up as a 4-4-2 but as expected Osvaldo Martinez was given license to cut inside and try and create things for his forwards, Jorge Mendoza found himself on the left but being a natural right footer he tried to cut in making Paraguay rather narrow at times. The home team were patient in possession and it seemed Arce was finally getting his message across, that was until the 16th minute. Victor ‘Topo’ Caceres was sent off for an alleged elbow (Paraguay Football still hasn’t seen the replays) and at that point Arce might as well have thrown his notebook over the stadium fence. The game was no longer about tactics, strategy, plans for Bolivia (their next competitive international) but about clinging on and not losing at home to a desperately poor opposition.
Panama were so poor in fact, that Paraguay had no problem keeping possession with ten men, the difficulty was penetration in the final third as Lucas Barrios and more often Nelson Haedo Valdez were isolated with full backs unable to support and Cristian Riveros now having to hold in central midfield instead of push forward. Haedo Valdez playing as a right winger cum striker (he generally runs enough for two positions so this wasn’t a major problem) was excellent in holding up the ball but rarely found the target when in a position to score. Barrios, justifiably tired having only arrived the morning before the game, only had one chance of merit a bicycle kick wide.
In the second half the game became disjointed with substitutions and quite incredibly Panamanian attempts to time waste (a professional team with an extra man trying to draw 0-0 in a game where the result doesn’t matter is a frustrating sight) but Paraguay kept at their game plan, keep possession and don’t panic. The introduction of José Ortigoza up front gave the local team more of a target up front and he had a wonderful headed chance following Victor Ayala’s (another substitue) teasing cross.
With 15 minutes to go the excellent Osvaldo Martinez was withdrawn for Reinaldo Ocampo and Eric Ramos came on in the middle for Riveros as Paraguay hoped to inject more pace into the game. It was pace that clinched this friendly win for them, Edgar Benitez is fast becoming Arce’s star man and the Cerro Porteño forward danced his way into the box to slide a pass to Jonathan Santana the Libertad man made no mistake.
Paraguay XI: J.Villar; C.Bonet, A.Alcaraz, P.Da Silva, M.Samudio; O.Martinez, V.Caceres, C.Riveros, J.Mendoza; N.Haedo Valdez, L.Barrios
Subs: E.Benitez for L.Barrios, J.Ortigoza for N.Haedo Valdez, V.Ayala for C.Bonet, R.Ocampo for O.Martinez, E.Ramos for C.Riveros, J.Santana for J.Mendoza
Red Card: Victor Caceres ’16
OFF THE BALL
Paraguay U17s give us a goal fest
As is common in Paraguay the main course that is the senior side is preceeded by a youthful starter, the U17s continued their preparation under Mauro Caballero with a 7-1 thrashing of a Guaireña selection having draw 2-2 last week with Ovetense. Cristian Vargas was strong up front again and in central midfield Angel Benitez and Rene Obregon seemed much more athletic than their hapless opponents. As Paraguay used all their subs it gave them more energy and a flurry of goals at the end much in part to replacement left winger Angel Marecos, lovely balance and speed.
Paraguay U17s XI: M.Mereles; R.Alvarenga, A.Duarte, D.Marín, J.Sanabria; M.Gonzalez, A.Benitez, R.Obregón, M.Durán; F.Gonzalez, C.Vargas
Subs: L.Caballero, A.Vera, R.Tandi, L.Acosta, A.Marecos, D.Toledo, A.Torres
Napout no comment on friendlies
After the game, the president of the Paraguayan FA, Juan Angel Napout said “I have no opinion” about the quality of the opposition. Paraguay since the World Cup Quarter Final have played friendlies against the likes New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Bolivia. The only European team they’ve faced is Romania in Asunción although it was a weakened side.
1-0 to the Albirro
Last night’s win was the 22nd 1-0 win by Paraguay in their 177 home games, it is the most common scoreline.
By Ralph Hannah