Less than a month until Paraguay take on Chile with qualification only possible mathematically – in reality the albirroja would need a tremendous set of results to go their way if they were to make it on the plane to Brazil. One of the problems that has plagued Paraguay since the Salvador Cabañas tragedy is a goalscorer – Tata Martino, Chiqui Arce and now Gerardo Pelusso have all struggled to get the best out of the considerable striking talents available to them. Here we look at four alternatives to the tried and tested – Oscar Cardozo, Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Haedo, and Lucas Barrios.
1. Raúl Bobadilla (FC Basel)
Born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents, the 25-year-old striker has been approached by Pelusso about nationalization to represent the country of his parentage. After a successful start to his career in Switzerland (with Concordia and Grasshoppers) the powerful and physical forward struggled with Borussia Monchengladbach and Aris with his fiery temper causing problems with managers. He earned a move to his current club having impressed in the Europa League with Young Boys.
2. Adrian Fernandez (Independiente)
Just a year or so ago this kid was knocking around in the reserves of “El Rojo” who were thinking of letting him go, fast forward to the present day and the Paraguayan that had progressed through the ranks at Cerro Porteño is saving the Argentine giants from the drop thanks to his goals. He has four in four and the first strike against Tigre (see below) is an indication of the wonderful technique this left-footer possesses. Arguably a risk to throw in a 2o-year-old with little first team experience into a World Cup Qualifier although he has certainly proved that he isn’t one to shy from the big occassion.
3. Derlis Gonzalez (Benfica)
While we are sticking with youth why not give Derlis Gonzalez a chance? The Benfica forward shined during the U20s Sudamericano and his electric pace and ball control is likely to scare the Chilean defence. Again the questions are over temperament and maturity but Pelusso is at a stage when it is worth trying something new, after all he has scored against Chile before.
4. Pablo Velazquez (Libertad)
The big man was given 12 minutes in a losing cause against Ecuador but his form in the local league could convince Pelusso to give him a start. While his left foot and physical appearance might tempt you to draw conclusions with Oscar Cardozo, the Libertad man is more involved in the approach play, especially holding up the ball and bringin his teammates into play. Tacuara has always been a poacher but Velazquez can offer more outside of the area.
Of course there are many more names – Robin Ramirez isn’t having the best time at Pumas but he is still a great player, Edgar Benitez and José Ariel Nuñez have both been used by Pelusso recently as has former Olimpia man Luis Caballero. On the youth scene there is Maurito Caballero who is currently with Porto’s youth side and although he is in the Spanish 2nd division it is hard to overlook Carlos Javier Acuña’s scoring exploits with Girona (14 goals in 19 games), maybe the Real Madrid man is ready to step up a level?
By Ralph Hannah