The CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers resume next Friday and Paraguay have two tough trips firstly to Montevideo against Copa America champions Uruguay and then the altitude of Quito against an Ecuador side with a 100% home record to date. Taking into account there are two away games at opposite sides of the continent, Gerardo Pelusso has called up 28 players to cover for any injuries and fatigue.
Libertad central defender Ismael Benegas finds himself in a qualifier squad for the first time which is a reward for continuing on from his good form towards the end of last year. Tobías Vargas becomes the first ever Deportivo Capiatá player to receive an international call up. Cristian Riveros finds himself back in the team, Oscar Cardozo is also back meaning the most notable omission is Roque Santa Cruz the joint all-time topscorer who fired Malaga into the Quarter Finals of the Champions League this week and is getting regular game time albeit from the bench.
Due to the demands of the altitude we will probably see two different line-ups but I don’t expect the formation to change, either a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-3- depending on the inclusion of Jonathan Fabbro or not. My ideal XI to face Uruguay would be the following:
1. Antony Silva
2. Ivan Piris
4. Pablo Aguilar
5. Anotlin Alcaraz
3. Lorenzo Melgarejo
6. Victor Cáceres
7. Richard Ortiz
8. Crisitan Riveros
11. Marcelo Estigarribia
9. Oscar Cardozo
10. Robin Ramirez
I would love to see the combination of Ramirez’s movement with Cardozo’s predatory instinct although in an away game there may well be a temptation to play a more defensive forward like Luis Caballero or Nelson Haedo. In midfield the combination of a holder and passer like Victor ‘Topo’ Caceres will work well with two ‘pressers’ ahead of him a job that Richard Ortiz and Cristian Riveros can perform with class.
In defence Pablo Aguilar has shown that his rise to stardom at Tijuana is no fluke and his danger from set pieces is to be feared at international level, he has four in his last three. Antolin Alcaraz makes a welcome return after missing previous qualifiers through injury.
Fabbro is, as ever, a tantalising option and was immense in February’s friendly having come off the bench – the question isn’t over his ability but more the balance of the side and for a player who enjoys space there is likely to be much less in Montevideo against Uruguay than there was against El Salvador in Asunción.
Full squad list
Goalkeepers (3): Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Antony Silva (Dep. Tolima, Colombia), Tobías Vargas (Deportivo Capiatá, Paraguay).
Defenders (9): Iván Piris (Roma, Italy), Marcos Cáceres (Newell’s Old Boys, Argentina), Paulo Da Silva (Pachuca, Mexico), Pablo Aguilar (Tijuana, Mexico), Pedro Benítez (Libertad, Paraguay), Antolín Alcaraz (Wigan Athletic, England), Ismael Benegas (Libertad, Paraguay), Miguel Samudio (Libertad, Paraguay), Lorenzo Melgarejo (Benfica, Portugal).
Midfielders (10): Fidencio Oviedo (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Víctor Cáceres (Flamengo, Brazil), Julio Dos Santos (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Víctor Ayala (Lanús, Argentina), Cristian Riveros (Kayserispor, Turkey), Richard Ortiz (Olimpia, Paraguay), Marcelo Estigarribia (Sampdoria, Italy), Osvaldo Martínez (América, Mexico), Silvio Torales (Nacional, Paraguay), Jonathan Fabbro (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay).
Forwards (6): Nelson Haedo Valdez (Valencia, Spain), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica, Portugal), Luis Neri Caballero (Krylia Sovetov Samara, Russia), Edgar Benítez (Toluca, Mexico), Robín Ramírez (Pumas UNAM, Mexico), Pablo Velázquez (Libertad, Paraguay)