Several weeks after Chiqui Arce’s sacking the Paraguayan FA (APF) have confirmed Uruguayan Gerardo Pelusso as the new coach of the national side who leaves Olimpia to take the reins of the albirroja. Here is a short summary and our views on the pros and cons of the appointment.
D.o.B: 25 February 1954
Place of Birth: Florida, Uruguay
Former Clubs Managed: Emelec (Ecuador, 1984), Club Atlético Florida (Uruguay, 1985-88), Liverpool (Uruguay, 1991), Club Atlético Quilmes (Uruguay, 1992), Cerro (Uruguay, 1993-95), Deportes Iquique (Chile, 1996-97), Everton (Chile, 1998), Frontera Rivera (Uruguay, 1999), Racing (Uruguay, 2000), Aucas (Ecuador, 2001-02), Cerro (Uruguay, 2003) Danubio (Uruguay, 2004-05), Alianza Lima (Perú, 2006-07), Club Nacional (Uruguay, 2007-09), Universidad de Chile (Chile, 2010), Club Olimpia (Paraguay, 2011-12)
Club Honours: 2004 Uruguayan Apertura, 2004 Uruguayan Championship, 2006 Peruvian Apertura, 2006 Peruvian championship, 2008 Uruguayan Apertura, 2008-09 Uruguayan Championship, 2011 Paraguayan Clausura
Recent International Tournaments: 2009 Copa Libertadores semi-finalists, 2010 Copa Libertadores semi-finalists, 2011 Copa Sudamericana Last 16, 2012 Copa Libertadores Group Stages
Employing a coach with experience of Paraguayan football is certainly a bonus, with the short timeframe before the next World Cup Qualifier (7 September away to Argentina) there wouldn’t have been much time for a coach to try and get to know his players. Pelusso can get straight to work in trying to qualify for the World Cup which is the principal aim.
Pelusso’s recent track record is certainly enviable, he wins things and got far in international tournaments with both Universidad de Chile and Nacional (URU). Also one of the characteristics of his Olimpia team was the mental strength he installed which is something the Paraguay players will need if they are going to revive their qualification hopes.
Historically Paraguay have been a defensive and counter-attacking side which may not be pretty but has allowed the nation of 6 million to punch above their weight on the international stage. Pelusso will immediately bring more defensive organisation than seen under Chiqui Arce and the Uruguayan is a pragmatist who is willing to employ the tactic that works; at Olimpia he moved from a 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 when he lost key players in mid-season.
While Pelusso is animated on the touchline he was generally eloquent and tranquil in press conferences and his general handling of the Paraguay press and the pressure of managing Olimpia was excellent. It will stand him in good stead for what he is about to face at international level.
Paraguay is in a transition and unlike club management Pelusso won’t be able to draft in big names to help him out, this will be a renewed test of his ability to get the best out of a limited talent pool something he hasn’t had to deal with recently in Uni. de Chile and Olimpia both filled with stars.
What will happen to the progress made by Chiqui Arce’s administration in the youth set-up? Unfortunately it is unlikely that he will show the same interest into the Paraguayan youth set up. This was one of the criticisms of the previous foreign-coach Gerardo Martino who had very little success at youth level.
International football is full of ‘big-games’ where you plan for weeks or even months and need to get your tactics right for that particular opponent. In two crucial ‘big-games’ this year Pelusso could be accused of getting it wrong, on Sunday he went for an ultra-defensive formation needing just a point against Cerro Porteño and ended up going two goals down (admittedly earling sendings off also had an effect). Similarly in the final Copa Libertadores group game against Emelec he was unlucky to lose key players to injury but the late substitution in search of a winning goal was a striker for a defender (rather than defensive midfielder) and Olimpia ended up conceding.
Given the limited time frame and the APF’s resolve to qualify for the 2014 World Cup rather than plan long-term this seems one of the best possible appointments. Pelusso is a solid candidate with good managerial credentials and his championship win at Olimpia will surely have earned plenty of respect among the players he will now be coaching. The pressure is certainly on, starting with that crunch qualifier in Córdoba against Messi and co. followed by a huge grudge match (for sporting and political reasons) in Asunción against Venezuela. If Pelusso can take four points from those two qualifiers it will put him in good stead and expel any nagging doubts about his qualification to manage on the international stage.
By Ralph Hannah