This will be the first World Cup Qualifier this blog has covered in his (or her?) young life so we will do a series of posts, starting with an analysis of the 27-man squad chose for acclimatisation in La Paz. This is, of course, a unique situation not just the altitude but the fact that Paraguay have three-weeks to get used to the thin air thanks to the APF’s decision to suspend the league for a month and Brazil hosting the World Cup which means Paraguay have no game scheduled before the Bolivia match*.
At the bottom is a full list of the Paraguay and Bolivia squads for the game but here we are going to go through some of the major talking points and try to explain why some people were included and why some were left out.
Four Goalkeepers: It seems very strange to name four goalkeepers in a squad, one will certainly be dropped before the official squad is given to FIFA. The extra man seems to be in the likely event that Justo Villar is unfit to play, the veteran hasn’t been anywhere near the Estudiantes squad and has been beset with injury problems this year. The most likely starter is Cerro Porteño’s Diego Barreto.
New Faces: 21-year-old Lorenzo Melgarejo’s excellent season for Paços de Ferreira where he notched ten league goals means the striker is included for the first time, you can see a profile on the striker here. He has previously represented the U20s side. Eduardo Aranda of Olimpia has been handed an opportunity, the right midfielder is probably in there for a more defensive option to somebody like Hernan Pérez, his best moment has to be that goal against Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro.
Surprise Recalls: Central defender Adalberto Román debuted under Gerardo Martino back in 2009 but hasn’t had a great time since leaving his native soil. In River Plate he will be remembered for conceding the penalty that contributed to their relegation and has made just one appearance for Palmeiras since joining. Villarreal’s right winger Hernan Pérez hasn’t been considered since Arce took charge but his resurgence in form in the final stages of the season has earned the coach’s favour. The left-back position has been a long-term problem for Paraguay solved for just two games by the excellent Richard Ortiz who then fell injured so Arce has resorted to calling up Aureliano Torres again. Reports suggest he has had a decent season for Toluca in Mexico and he does possess and quality deadball delivery that could come in useful.
Absentees: Niggly injuries have kept out regulars Antolín Alcaraz, Dario Verón, Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo while issues with Juventus and scheduling means Marcelo Estigarribia wasn’t considered. The creative midfielder Julio Dos Santos was left out as Arce doesn’t want to take him while he is playing out of position, even when playing as an ‘enganche‘ he might not have been picked. The two most interesting absentees are strikers Lucas Barrios and Robin Ramirez. Today the team’s doctor Manuel Aguilar suggested that Barrios was not up to playing at altitude because he had suffered playing there previously and they don’t think he’ll be able to acclimatise so there is no point risking him. As for Ramirez it is surprising that the topscorer in the Colombian league and a firm favourite of Chiqui’s while at Rubio Ñu has missed out. This author would suggest he is similar quality to the four local-based strikers that have been chosen but is currently playing, and thriving, at a higher level so it is a surprise he wasn’t given a seat on the plane.
Where are Libertad’s players? Libertad have refused to release any players to the national team due to their Copa Libertadores Quarter Final tie against Universidad de Chile. This is perfectly within their rights as the squad is being mobilised outside of a FIFA international window and the APF have accepted the decision owing to the importance of the game for Paraguayan domestic football.
Strengths: The bulk of the squad (16/27) are domestic-based players that have been working together for two days a week for the almost five months now, that breeds a lot of understanding and they should play the way Arce wants. The three-week acclimatisation is obviously a huge boost not just physically but mentally as many teams go there beaten the moment they step off the plane. I also think there is a lot of pace in this side up front, Pablo Zeballos, Nelson Haedo and Edgar Benitez can all unsettle the Bolivian defence.
Weaknesses: The defence is lacking key players in Alcaraz, Verón, Ortiz and Carlos Bonet which is a real blow, the full back position looks very week and other than Paulo da Silva none of the centre defenders are international standard.
My XI (4-4-2): Diego Barreto; Tomás Bartomeus, Paulo Da Silva, Adalberto Román, Elvis Marecos; Hernan Perez, Cristian Riveros, Eric Ramos, Osvaldo Martinez; Nelson Haedo, Lorenzo Melgarejo
PARAGUAY FULL SQUAD
BOLIVIA FULL SQUAD
Thanks to the excellent Futgol3d website for this list – just one interesting thing to note, Pablo Escobar is Paraguayan by birth nationalised by Bolivia:
1. Daniel Vaca – The Strongest
2. Sergio Galarza – Blooming
3. Carlos Lampe – San Jose
4. Luis Mendez – The Strongest
5. Christian Vargas – San Jose
6. Edemir Rodriguez – Bolivar
7. Ronny Jimenez – Real Potosi
8. Ronald Rivero – Blooming
9. Gabriel Valverde – Bolivar
10. Luis Gutierrez – Bahia (Brasil)
11. Abdon Reyes – Bolivar
12. Jose Carlo Barba – Aurora
13. Juan Carlos Arce – Bolivar
14. Gualberto Mojica – Oriente Petrolero
15. Alejandro Chumacero – The Strongest
16. Edson Zenteno – Aurora
17. Walter Flores – Bolivar
18. Jose Luis Chavez – Blooming
19. Rudy Cardozo – Bolivar
20. Jhasmany Campos – Bolivar
21. Miguel Loaiza – San Jose
22. Ricardo Pedriel – Sivvaspor (Turquia)
23. Marcelo Martins – Gremio (Brasil)
24. Alcides Peña – Oriente Petrolero
25. Pablo Escobar – The Strongest
26. Augusto Andaveris – Aurora
27. Carlos Saucedo – San Jose
By Ralph Hannah
*The CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers are not drawn randomly they have a specific order, Paraguay always play Brazil at home before the Bolivia away game.