Argentina vs Paraguay
Estadio Mario Kempes, Córdoba, Argentina
06/09/2012; 19:10 hrs (00:10 hrs BST)
Paraguay’s sixth qualifier of the current campaign is upon us, with no Brazil this is arguably the hardest fixture of the lot – Argentina away. To date Paraguay have a 0% record on the road losing 2-0 to both Peru and Chile before that disastorous defeat in La Paz (3-1 to Bolivia) that cost Chiqui Arce his job. With this being Gerardo Pelusso’s first competitive game and only his second overall following the 3-3 friendly, we can only guess at how he will line up his side. We weren’t even given any hints yesterday as Paraguay’s training session was washed out by the heavy rain in Córdoba.
The Uruguayan is slightly more defensive by nature, he did play 4-3-3 at times with Olimpia but it was a solid three in midfield and he liked to play with ‘defensive’ strikers, players who can track back and close down. One such player was Luis Caballero who has been included in this squad along with Edgar Benítez and Nelson Haedo Valdez who also have the capability to run and press. The key player in attack however is Jonathan Fabbro, until last month an Argentine national but took up Paraguay nationality having lived here for five years. Fabbro’s touch and vision resembles a classic ‘enganche’ (think Riquelme) but his strength is more akin to Didier Drogba and when his head is in the game he is almost unplayable. Argentina’s makeshift defence could be given a rough time if Paraguay can get the ball to Fabbro in space. The other player who will be looking to test the albiceleste backline is Marcelo Estigarribia who will want revenge against Hugo Campagnaro, the pair last meeting in the Coppa Italia final which Napoli won against the Paraguayan’s former club Juventus.
Of course, the albirroja’s main concerns will be at the other end of the pitch, no Aguero isn’t much of a bonus considering that Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Maxi Biancucchi’s cousin are all set to start. It is unsure how they will plan to stop Messi who is likely to play centrally and receive the ball deep to allow him to run at the defence and interchange passes with Higuain (who has profited from this partnership with four goals in three home qualifiers). Víctor Cáceres might keep close attention to the Barcelona star or there are murmurs that Cerro Porteño’s Fidencio Oviedo will be given a starting role and asked to manmark. Messi is not the only threat of course and Paraguay must get their midfield to help cover a fairly slow defence because any one-on-one situations greatly favour the Argentines.
Prediction: On form Argentina should win comfortably, 3-1, but historically (check out this earlier post) this game is contested more in the mind and the heart than with the feet and 1-1 has been the most common score. Depends what you believe in more, form or history.
Paraguay XI (Possible): Justo Villar; Ivan Piris, Paulo Da Silva, Antolin Alcaraz, Richard Ortiz; Víctor Ayala, Víctor Cáceres, Cristian Riveros, Marcelo Estigarribia; Jonathan Fabbro; Nelson Haedo
Argentina XI (Possible): Sergio Romero; Hugo Campagnaro, Federico Fernandez, Ezequiel Garay, Marco Rojo; Fernando Gago, Rodrigo Braña; Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi; Gonzalo Higuain
SELECTED ODDS: Argentina win 1.3, Draw 5.7, Paraguay win 12.0; Under 2.5 Goals 2.32; Fabbro to score at anytime 10.5
BEST BET: Not much value on the home win, looking at both sides defences the BTTS is a good bet at evens, also there has been a red card in the last four qualifiers between these two, a punt on that is about 2.72 currently
STATS AND TRIVIA
Argentina haven’t beaten Paraguay at home in a world cup qualifier since the introduction of colour TVs (last win was 1973), for more history check out this post
Paraguay vs Argentina Head-to-Head (World Cup Qualifiers)
Pld 14 W 2 D 8 L 4 GF 11 GA 17
There is a whole blog post dedicated to stats which you can check out here.
PARAGUAY FULL SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Justo Villar (Estudiantes LP), Antony Silva (Dep. Tolima), Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteño)
Defenders: Paulo Da Silva (Pachuca), Antolín Alcaraz (Wigan Athletic), Darío Verón (Pumas), Carlos Bonet (Cerro Porteño), Iván Piris (Roma), Pedro Benítez (Cerro Porteño), Miguel Samudio (Libertad), Richard Ortiz (Olimpia), Salustiano Candia (Olimpia)
Midfielders: Víctor Cáceres (Flamengo), Cristian Riveros (Kayserispor), Hernán Pérez (Villarreal), Víctor Ayala (Lanus), Marcelo Estigarribia (Sampdoria), Julio Dos Santos (Cerro Porteño), Fidencio Oviedo (Cerro Porteño), Jonathan Fabbro (Cerro Porteño)
Strikers: Roque Santa Cruz (Málaga), Nelson Haedo (Valencia), Óscar Cardozo (Benfica), Édgar Benítez (Toluca), Luis Nery Caballero (Krylya Sovetov Samara)
By Ralph Hannah