Guatemala vs Paraguay
Estadio Mateo Flores
(0-1) 0-1 Ricardo Mazacotte 6′
An early goal from debutant Ricardo Mazacotte secured Paraguay’s second consecutive 1-0 win and fourth straight victory to maintain their 100% record in 2012. It also marked a morale-boosting away win for Chiqui Arce’s side following three defeats on the road as all eyes now turn to La Paz and the forthcoming World Cup Qualifier against Bolivia.
Paraguay fielded one change from the starting eleven confirmed in the preview as Salustiano Candia was injured in the warm up and replaced by Guaraní’s Julio Manzur. The albirroja started brightly, comfortable in possession and enjoying the time and space offered by their rivals. After just six minutes they had profited via a set piece, Fernando Gimenez curled in a teasing corner for his fellow debutant Mazacotte to head in almost unmarked. The travelling side should have doubled that lead just five minutes later when José Ariel Nuñez, a problem for the home defense throughout, broke into the box and squared to strike partner Edgar Benitez. His shot was charged down quickly by the goalkeeper to roll out for a corner.
Guatemala to their credit tried to play football and attack but didn’t have the quality on the ball to really harm Paraguay, in general shots were from distance and crosses were calmly cleared by an organised rearguard. The only moment of hope for the local crowd was when Pescadito Ruiz tumbled in the box as he squeezed between two Paraguay defenders, the referee saw through his deception and correctly booked the player for diving.
In the second half the pace slowed and it was a turgid affair with neither side able to carve out many clear cut chances, the albirroja were more comfortable in possession but with the lead had no urgency. Guatemala on the other hand simply didn’t have anybody capable of imposing themselves on the game or even somebody with pace to try and pull Paraguay out of shape on the break. Maybe the highlight was the introduction of Eduardo Echeverría of Sportivo Carapeguá who became the club’s first full international. It also completes a remarkable story for the man who was playing futsal in Carapeguá just last year before being invited to train with the first team. Today he is a full international and joint topscorer in the Paraguayan Primera División, what a turnaround for the 22-year-old left footer.
After the game Chiqui Arce stated he was pleased with the performance on the whole and as ever emphasised the importance of keeping the ball as much as possible and being patient. Ball possession will be key in Bolivia as Paraguay will want to impose themselves on the Bolivians and avoid an end-to-end game which, even after three weeks of altitude acclimitisation, will favour the Andeans. The majority of this squad is likely to travel and it has been all but confirmed that Paulo Da Silva will join up with the squad, there are rumours too that Lucas Barrios could be given the all clear to travel. That would be a major boost to the Guaraní to have somebody of his talent available.
Paraguay XI: Diego Barreto; Ricardo Mazacotte, Pablo Aguilar, Julio Manzur, Tomás Bartomeus; Jorge Núñez, Jorge Mendoza, Eric Ramos, Fernando Giménez; José Ariel Núñez, Edgar Benítez.
Subs: Reinaldo Ocampo for Jorge Núñez, Marcos Riveros for Edgar Benítez, Willian Mendieta for Jorge Mendoza, Pablo Velázquez for José Ariel Núñez, Joel Silva for Diego Barreto, Eduardo Echeverría for Fernando Giménez
OFF THE BALL
Nationalisation on the agenda
Although there was some rubbish in the press about Chiqui Arce not selecting nationalised players in his early squads (it was purely coincidence) there is no doubt that Arce, like previous manager Gerardo Martino is ready to field any eligible player. Last night’s goalscorer Ricardo Mazacotte for example was born in Formosa, Argentina on the border of Paraguay, while midfielder Jorge Medoza was also born there. With the APF set to introduce the foreigner cap in the local league, the big clubs are considering nationalising players to help reduce their over-subscribed quota. This could mean that in the near future Paraguay could call up the services of Vladimir Marín, Sergio Orteman and Maxi Biancucchi. Jonathan Fabbro has regularly expressed his desire to play international football and is set to become a Paraguayan national in August of this year.
Chiqui the CONCACAF bully
Last night was Paraguay’s fifth game against a CONCACAF side since Chiqui Arce took the reins and their fifth victory. Paraguay have scored nine goals and conceded just one against her Central American neighbours.
By Ralph Hannah