We look at the best XI from the recently concluded 2012 Apertura in Paraguay – we welcome your thoughts and comments below!
Goalkeeper: Martin Silva (Olimpia)
Olimpia had the second-best defensive record in the league but it wasn’t so much to do with their back four more the excellent performances of Uruguayan goalkeeper Martin Silva who proved his quality time and again. Olimpia kept ten cleansheets this season with Silva involved in all but one (the first clásico).
Right Back: Carlos Bonet (Libertad)
He isn’t the player he used to be, no longer is Bonet to be seen roaming forward and smashing in goals like this one , but he is still an excellent defender as was a regular in the best defence in the Apertura this season. His experience and organisation was vital and his performances mean the 34-year-old defender is on the wanted list of both Olimpia and Cerro Porteño.
Left Back: Elvis Marecos (Guaraní)
Another veteran who did an excellent job this season not just in defence but was also the source of five crucial goals in a Guaraní side that desperately lacked creativity and firepower once striker Federico Santander had gone. The aurinegro fought hard to keep Marecos at the start of the season after Cerro had come calling and he justified their faith in the player by putting in some match winning performances.
Centre Back: Cristian Nasuti (Libertad)
The Argentine was brought in by Jorge Burruchaga for the league and Copa Libertadores campaign and impressed hugely with his tenacity and ball winning capabilities. The former River Plate man was less error-prone than partner Ismael Benegas which is why he gets a place in the team of the year.
Centre Back: Enrique Meza (Olimpia)
The best central defender at the vice-champions didn’t play towards the end of the season because of a dispute between his agent and Olimpia’s club president, Marcelo Recanate. It is debateable if Meza would have been the difference in the final two games that saw Olimpia concede four times but it wsa a shame that he was unable to have a say.
Right midfield: Francisco Garcia (Independiente)
Although the 21-year-old was mainly deployed on the left he is right-footed so gets the nod in this position. Independiente had an excellent second half of the season following Alicio Solalinde’s appointment as manager and Garcia blossomed under his wing. His wondergoal in the win against Olimpia was the pick of the bunch but he also got an important winner against Rubio Ñu and equaliser against Luque in a season that brought five goals in total.
Left midfield: Edgar Benítez (Cerro Porteño)
The winger/striker principally played up front for the champions but he was as devastating in both positions, ‘Pajaro’ may only have chipped in with two goals in the second half of the season (he scored six in total) but it was his all-round play that was so important. When running at full tilt and taking on defenders he was unstoppable, too strong on the ball for the centrebacks and too fast for full backs. It was then no surprise when he won that critical penalty against Olimpia in the final game of the season. Benítez also leaves El Ciclón having played a part in all 44 of their previous 44 league games testament to the pivotal role he has had in the club.
Defensive Midfielder: Víctor ‘Topo’ Cáceres (Libertad)
Consistently one of the best players in the league this was Cáceres’ last season with Libertad having now joined Flamengo, once again the midfielder was the epitomy of calm in controlling the tempo of games and where necessary killing them off. He can pick a pinpoint pass for a striker, hustle a midfielder off the ball or win key headers and Libertad’s defensive record has as much to do with Topo as it does with their excellent rearguard.
Defensive Midfielder: Marcelo Palau (Guaraní)
Guaraní’s new Uruguayan signing was an instant hit showing poise and determination in central midfield, he also popped up with the odd goal (like this peach against Luque) to help his side’s failing strikers. This blog is particularly excited at seeing Palau next season (he signed a four-year contract with the Asunción club after rumours he was moving to Qatar) forming a partnership with compatriot Sergio Orteman who has joined the side.
Playmaker: Jonathan Fabbro (Cerro Porteño)
The footballing ability of this former Copa Libertadores winner has never been in doubt but after he began the Apertura with more niggly injuries and rumours of missing training sessions it seemed Fabbro wasn’t motivated to play at the level we all know he can. But in the final run-in the 30-year-old brushed all those accusations aside with a series of awesome performances. He scored three times in the final five games, twice stunning freekicks including the goal that sealed the championship against Olimpia, but it was seeing him track back and impose himself on the matches that really reminded us all just how incredibly talented the number 17 is.
Striker: José Ortigoza (Sol de América)
The danzarín achieved 35 points this season and managed to finish in fourth place ahead of stronger teams such as Nacional and Guaraní. It was no coincidence that this upturn in fortunes ocurred at the same time they welcomed back José Ortigoza, the ex-Cruzeiro striker netted 13 times and was five goals ahead of his closest rivals (including teammate Enzo Prono) in the golden boot standings. Pace, power and deadly instinct inside of the penalty area all combined to put Ortigoza head and shoulders ahead of the division’s other forwards, therefore it was no surprise when Sol de América announced they would be selling the striker for $3 million dollars to Chinese club Shandong Luneng.
Honorary mentions to Carlos Servín (Tacuary), Jonathan Santana (Libertad), Pedro Benítez (Cerro Porteño), Eduardo Echeverría (Carapeguá) and Dario Ocampo (Guaraní) who were all considered but just missed the cut.
By Ralph Hannah