U20s World Cup: Paraguay squad profile

Victor Genes did a wonderful job to guide Paraguay to 2nd place in the Sudamericano and almost won the tournament something they have only done once in 1971. The core of the team that did so well remains with some serious firepower added up front – Claudio Correa of Benfica joins Tonny Sanabria of Barcelona who did so well for the U17s he has been moved up an age group to try and bring glory in Turkey. Here we breakdown the squad to look at the strengths and weaknesses of this side. Group Fixtures and the full squad list are at the bottom.

Paraguay overcame Turkey in their first friendly - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Paraguay overcame Turkey in their first friendly – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Defence: Other than the two goals conceded in the last game against Colombia, the defence stood firm when the going got tough in the final round of the Sudamericano. Since January the three Cerro Porteño players have been involved in the first team with Teodoro Paredes considered a starter. The goalscoring centre-back Matias Perez wasn’t a mainstay with champions Nacional but has proved he is still a danger from set pieces scoring in the warm up game against Croatia. Gustavo Gómez has been used a lot by Libertad coach Ruben Israel. There is no doubt this defensive unit is even stronger than six months ago.

Midfield: Defensive midfield might be the weak link here, Iván Ramirez is excellent in a man-marking role (just ask Argentina´s Ricardo Centurión) but could struggle when asked to cover a wider area. Rubio Ñu duo Gustavo Viera and Angel Cardozo Lucena did seem to show signs of tiredness towards the end of the competition although they’ve seen more first team action now and maybe more suited to the rigours of football at this level. Looking further up the field and there are no worries in the shape of Miguel Almirón a wonderfully gifted footballer with all the makings of a top playmaker, he has come on as a substitute for Jonathan Fabbro several times at Cerro and made an impact when he scored his first senior goal, the winner, against Rubio Ñu in April.

Miguel Almirón is a great player with time on the ball - Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Miguel Almirón is a great player with time on the ball – Photo: Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Forwards: Oh wow. If you haven´t seen these boys before you are in for a treat. The front three is likely to be Benfica’s future signing Jorge Rojas on the right, Benfica’s existing signing Derlis Gonzalez on the left and Barcelona’s Tonny Sanabria down the middle. Rojas offers frightening pace while Derlis Gonzalez brings his skill and finishing touch to the albirrojita. As for Sanabria he is all of that combined, a really fantastic player who showed plenty of the talent that has made him the toast of La Masia, here is his double against Argentina in case you are in any doubt. Then there is the bench, another Benfica man Claudio Correa is a powerful striker as his nickname “Ogro” (ogre) might suggest, another man really pushing for a start is Cecilio Dominguez, he had three goals in four games for Sol de América and then popped up with the winner against Turkey in the recent friendly. The other striker is Brian Montenegro who can play on the left-hand side too, he is currently at Rubio Ñu but did have a spell at the West Ham academy last year.

Notable Absentees: Rodrigo Alborno of Inter Milan is injured, while Porto´s Maurito Caballero is still the victim of internal politics at the APF. It is a shame neither were on the plane to Turkey.

Paraguay victorious against Croatia in their final warm-up - Photo: Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay victorious against Croatia in their final warm-up – Photo: Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Fixtures

22 June vs Mali Kamil Ocak Stadium, Gaziantep (21:00  local time, 14:00 Paraguay time)

25 June vs Mexico Kamil Ocak Stadium, Gaziantep (18:00 local time, 11:00 Paraguay time)

28 June vs Greece Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium, Trabzon  (18:00 local time, 11:00 Paraguay time)

Full Squad List

Goalkeepers (3): Diego Morel (Libertad), Armando Vera (Libertad), Alejandro Bogado (Guaraní).

Defenders (7): Miller Mareco (Rubio Ñu), Teodoro Paredes (Cerro Porteño), Junior Alonso (Cerro Porteño), Gustavo Gómez (Libertad), Aquilino Giménez (Olimpia), Jorge “Manu” Balbuena (Cerro Porteño), Matías Pérez (Nacional)

Midfielders (7): Iván Ramírez (Libertad), Ángel Cardozo Lucena (Rubio Ñu), Robert Piris Da Motta (Rubio Ñu), Miguel Almirón (Cerro Porteño) , Gustavo Viera (Rubio Ñu), Juan Villamayor (Libertad)

Forwards (5): Brian Montenegro (Rubio Ñu), Claudio Correa (Benfica), Arnaldo Antonio “Tonny” Sanabria (FC Barcelona), Derlis González (Benfica), Cecilio Domínguez (Sol de América), Jorge Rojas (Benfica)

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Sudamericano 2013: Paraguay U20s report card

Despite the dampener of defeat on the final day (just look at their faces in the photo below!) the Paraguay U20s players and coaching staff should be very pleased with their performances in Mendoza which culminated in a 2nd place finish and of course an invaluable spot in the U20s World Cup which takes place later this year in Turkey.

Sad faces despite qualification! - Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Sad faces despite qualification! – Photo: Prensa Seleccion Paraguaya de Futbol

Here I’ve done a quick report card for the main squad members, like all ratings systems of this kind it isn’t perfect but hopefully gives you an idea of the major performers and the ones to look out for over the course of the year.

Diego Morel (Goalkeeper, Libertad)

Diego Morel - AFP/Daniel Garcia

Diego Morel – AFP/Daniel Garcia

Started the tournament with a howler that cost them the game against Colombia but as the competition progressed he proved to be a very good shot stopper and a safe pair of hands, needs improvement under the high ball and command of his area. 6/10

Teodoro Paredes (Centre-back/Right-back, Cerro Porteño)

Teodoro Paredes - AP Photo/Walter Moreno

Teodoro Paredes – AP Photo/Walter Moreno

The big man from Caaguazú showed plenty of power and strength but also has the technique to be comfortable at full back, his disciplinary record let him down with four yellow cards in the tournament it isn’t a mental problem more a question of timing his tackles. 7/10

Gustavo Gomez (Centre-back, Libertad)

Gustavo Gomez  - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Gustavo Gomez – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

The captain was very strong  throughout the Sudamericano, he’ll be disappointed with his sending off but in general he defended well, marshalled his troops and almost led them onto glory. 8/10

Matías Perez (Centre-back, Nacional)

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile - Photo: D10.com.py

Matias Perez celebrates in the victory against Chile – Photo: D10.com.py

A good tournament from a player who has played his fair share of senior football already, his three goals are evidence of his strength from set pieces and in general he was unruffled at the back. 7/10

Jorge Manuel Balbuena (Left wing-back, Cerro Porteño)

Balbuena looked good at times going forward, strong in patches defensively but didn’t shine consistently and it wasn’t easy with the defender often helplessly exposed at left wing-back. 6/10

Jorge Rojas (Right wing-back/Right winger/Attacking midfielder, Cerro Porteño)

Jorge Rojas (with hair!) -  Photo: abc.com.py

Jorge Rojas (with hair!) – Photo: abc.com.py

Arguably the best performer in the side he showed pace, power, dribbling skills and awareness to finish the Sudamericano with 2 goals and 3 assists. His versatility was something new, we are used to him as an out-and-out winger with the azulgrana but Víctor Genes moved him into a central role for some games where he impressed. Sure to have caught the eye of some European scouts. 9/10

Rodrigo Alborno (Left midfield, Novara)

Rodrigo Alborno's goal at the tournament - Photo: ABC

Rodrigo Alborno’s goal at the tournament – Photo: ABC

More was expected from Alborno, if only because he has been so good at Inter Milan and is now a Serie B regular – there were certainly flashes of his talent including that well-taken goal against Chile but he let himself down at times with the basics, short passing and deliveries from the dead ball. 6/10

Miguel Almirón (Central midfield, Cerro Porteño)

 Miguel Almiron

Miguel Almiron

A revelation in the middle, while he looks like a stick insect he is full of energy and was a yard quicker than most of the midfielders in the tournament. A lovely range of passing with an eye for the important through ball he also has that canny knack of making room for himself in crowded spots of the pitch. 8/10

Derlis Gonzalez (Striker, Benfica)

The Benfica striker was excellent  - Photo: D10.com.py

The Benfica striker was excellent – Photo: D10.com.py

Solid proof that there are benefits to leaving for Europe at a young age if you are going to get regular football, his time with the Benfica II side has seen Gonzalez develop much more tactical nouse while he still frightens defenders with his searing pace and his clinical finishing. An excellent tournament finishing with 4 goals and 2 assists and maybe posing a question to Pelusso and the senior side. 9/10

Cecilio Dominguez (Striker, Sol de América)

Cecilio Dominguez battles for the ball

Cecilio Dominguez battles for the ball

More than a ‘number 9’ he showed that he is a well rounded player with good skill and the ability to play in a three or a two up front. The fact he only scored one goal doesn’t mean he played badly, he brings in the players around him and created a good partnership with Derlis Gonzalez. 7/10

Others

Juan Villamayor (Striker, Libertad) – nippy, good set piece delivery

Ivan Ramirez (Midfielder, Libertad) – one tremendous performance against Argentina, essentially a ball winner

Angel Lucena (Midfielder, Rubio Ñu) – got better during the competition, needs to improve balance between attacking and defending

Robert Piris (Midfielder, Rubio Ñu) – didn’t impose himself as much as expected considering the amount of senior football he has played, still a talent worth watching

Brian Montenegro (Forward, Tacuary) – inconsistent but at times was very good especially drifting to left to create space for Derlis Gonzalez

Junior Alonso (Defender, Cerro Porteño) – two important goals and clearly a quality left-back but not as suited to being a wing-back

Miller Mareco (Defender, Libertad) – game in during the final stages and like Alonso looks better in a more defensive role

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013 Championship game – Paraguay vs Colombia preview

Paraguay vs Colombia
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
03/02/2013; 21:15 (23:15 GMT)

Paraguay will be champions of South America for only the second time in their history if they can avoid defeat against Colombia. If they were to lose that would hand the title to the cafeteros who are one point behind the albirrojita. This tournament has taken on beautiful symmetry with this final game a repeat of the opener, one that Colombia triumphed in thanks to a defensive error. Victor Genes’ side have improved immensley since that meeting and tonight is sure to be an intriguing contest.

Paraguay won the warm up tournament in 2012 and tonight they can win the real thing

Paraguay won the warm up tournament in 2012 and tonight they can win the real thing

Throughout the tournmanet the team has been reliant on set pieces, the last three goals have all come from dead ball situations and while Paraguay’s three goals in their previous three games might seem meagre for a team so close to the championship it is worth noting that Colombia have only scored twice in the last 270 minutes of football. With that in mind we shouldn’t expect a lot of goals regardless of the offensive talent on display in the form of Derlis Gonzalez, Jorge Rojas and on the other side Juan Quintero and Jhon Cordoba.

We have seen such a tactically astute tournament from Paraguay who have played to their strengths, the aforementioned set pieces and also the counter attack owing to the speed of their attacking players. While defensively they have seamlessly changed from a back four to a back three with the former reportedly preferred for tonight’s encounter.

Derlis Gonzalez crowded out against Colombia in the first game  - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Derlis Gonzalez crowded out against Colombia in the first game – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Whatever the result it has been a wonderful tournament for Paraguay who were going through a lean period at this level, qualifying just once (2009) in the last four World Cups. That was a huge contrast to the ‘golden period’ (1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003) when the side qualified for four consecutive U20s World Cups even finishing fourth in the 2001 edition and winning a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. Let’s just hope they can out-do even that crop of players and take the trophy home for the first time in 42 years.

Paraguay XI (possible): Diego Morel; Miller Mareco, Gustavo Gómez, Matías Perez, Manu Balbuena; Jorge Rojas, Angel Lucena, Miguel Almiron, Rodrigo Alborno; Derlis Gonzalez, Cecilio Dominguez

Prediction: Not many goals, a tight match, 1-0 to Paraguay

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano Hexagonal Final 2013: Paraguay undo Chile on the counter

Chile vs Paraguay
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
(1-0) 1-3 – Castillo; Gonzalez, Perez, Lucena

For the second time this tournament Paraguay bounced back from a goal down to win, the result ended Chile’s 100% record and is a huge step for the Albirrojita towards Turkey and the U20s World Cup. The game was 10 vs 10 for much of the contest following a dismissal for both captains in the first half. In what was a scrappy match, laden with fouls (32 in total), Paraguay struggled early on before profiting from the counter attack which has been a potent weapon in this tournament for Victor Genes’ side.

Derlis Gonzalez was instrumental again - Photo: D10.com.py

Derlis Gonzalez was instrumental again – Photo: D10.com.py

Paraguay have been somewhat unfortunate in terms of the goals they’ve conceded this tournament and yet again there was an element of luck in Castillo’s early opener, a freekick that struck the wall yet squeezed through to beat Diego Morel. The Paraguay goals came in the 2nd half two on the counter attack and one via a set piece.

Jorge Rojas led the charge for the equaliser, too strong and fast for the Chilean midfield as he burst through and released Montenegro on the left hand side, his measured cross found Derlis Gonzalez who opted for the hardest option, scooping the ball over the oncoming defender and goalkeeper. He is now joint topscorer in the tournament. Rojas got his second assist of the game as he provided the cross for giant defender Matias Perez to head home, beating the goalkeeper to the ball and netting his third in two matches. The game was completed with another counter attack and some tremendous technical ability by Derlis Gonzalez, surrounded by several red shirts he dribbled round two before timing his pass perfectly to Angel Lucena who smashed in a fierce shot into the top corner.

Great result for Paraguay who are showing plenty of ‘garra’ mixed with flashes of talent managed by a tactically astute Victor Genes. The future is bright!

Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013: Paraguay suffer heartache in Chile thriller

Chile vs Paraguay
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
(2-1) 3-2 – Rojas, Maturana, Contrera; Gonzalez, Alborno

It was five-goal tragedy for Paraguay in the end, in a pulsating match that had everything (except tactical awareness). Paraguay took the lead early on after good pressing from Montenegro and Dominguez, strength and awareness from Jorge Rojas and clever positioning from Derlis Gonzalez who as ever was on hand to turn the ball in.

Rodrigo Alborno equalises - Photo: ABC

Rodrigo Alborno equalises – Photo: ABC

Chile turned the game round before halftime with two goals – firstly their Rojas was given just a little bit too much sapce from Ivan Ramirez (who looked fatigued after a wonderful display against Argentina) and he jinked past captain Gustavo Gómez to fire in a good shot under the goalkeeper. The second goal was a result of several forays down Paraguay’s left hand side that was unguarded with Balbuena often pressing without the help of Montenegro and Matías Perez at centreback unable to sweep round.

We’ve seen plenty of spirit from this group of players and they showed it once again in the second half. As they continued to attack the game became incredibly stretched with almost no midfield to speak of. This helped Paraguay in the early part of the half, fresh legs and the pace of Derlis Gonzalez brought about the equaliser, a long ball bypassing everybody and finding Derlis Gonzalez one-on-one with his marker, he had enough vision and skill to slip in his ‘European’ teammate and substitute Rodrigo Alborno who finished expertly.

With the game so vertical there was always the feeling somebody would grab a winner – in the end it was Chile and unfortunately for Paraguay it was a defensive error with Juan Villamayor misplacing a simple pass in his own half. The Chileans put together a neat move which and Contreras showed a cool head to slip the ball past Morel in goal. The result means Paraguay must win against Bolivia in their final game tomorrow (Thursday 17th) to progress to the Hexagonal Final.

Paraguay XI: Diego Morel; Teodoro Paredes, Gustavo Gómez, Matías Perez; Jorge Rojas, Ivan Ramirez, Miguel Almirón, Manuel Balbuena; Derlis Gonzalez, Cecilio Dominguez, Bryan Montenegro

Subs: Rodrigo Alborno for Cecilio Dominguez, Angel Lucena for Ivan Ramirez, Juan Villamayor for Derlis Gonzalez

Sudamericano 2013: Chile vs Paraguay preview

Chile vs Paraguay
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
15/01/2013, 20:00 (23:00 GMT)

Following Friday night’s heroics and Argentina failing to win at their third attempt, the albirrojita are on course to qualify for the final round. They face the already-qualified Chile who are missing two players through suspension having picked up four red cards so far in this tournament.

So far we have seen a 4-4-2 and a 3-4-3 from Paraguay but we are starting to get to know the key players in the side, Teodoro Paredes has played well both as right back and one of three centre backs while Derlis Gonzalez was critical in the victory over Argentina as was Cecilio Dominguez. The interest is in central midfield, Iván Ramirez put in a tremendous 90 minutes in the previous game in a classic defensive midfield performance shielding his back four, the introduction of Miguel Almirón in that zone in the 2nd half improved Paraguay’s passing immensely. We should see those two start tonight’s match, especially with news that Robert Piris da Motta suffered an injury in training and won’t be available for selection.

The Benfica striker has been key so far - Photo: D10.com.py

The Benfica striker has been key so far – Photo: D10.com.py

Chile have announced they will rest players for this game, they have already qualified for the final round so want to recuperate fully before the Hexagonal final starts on Sunday. The albirrojitos will be happy if they don’t have to defend against players like Nicolás Castillo of Universidad Católica who has scored two already. The suspension of Cristian Cuevas is also good news, the O’Higgins midfielder’s absence could allow more space for Almirón to find his strikers.

Paraguay XI (possible): Diego Morel; Teodoro Paredes, Matias Perez, Gustavo Gomez; Jorge Rojas, Iván Ramirez, Miguel Almirón, Manuel Balbuena; Derlis Gonzalez, Cecilio Dominguez, Bryan Montenegro

Prediction: Chile are already through, Paraguay will fancy their chances – 1-3 to the Paraguayans

 Author’s Note: I don’t understand why in so many publications Manuel Balbuena is named as Jorge Balbuena, maybe it is his first name but on his facebook account he is called ‘Manu Balbuena Carreras’

By Ralph Hannah

Sudamericano 2013: Epic win for Paraguay over Argentina

Argentina vs Paraguay
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas
(1-0) 1-2 – Luciano Vietto; Derlis Gonzalez, Cecilio Dominguez

A tremendous second-half performance saw Paraguay score twice to overturn a one-goal deficit and beat Argentina on their own turf. It was a fantastic result that has kept alive the albirrojita’s hopes of qualifying for the final round. Victor Genes must be commended for his team selection and tactical awareness, he changed to a defensive 3-4-3 to combat Argentina’s ‘Fantastic 5’ with both Ivan Ramirez and Robert Piris da Motta playing as holding midfielders to protect their back three who didn’t have to press the ball, instead concentrated on covering balls over the top.

In the first half Paraguay were compact, organized and excellent without the ball yet they failed to keep much possession as the strikers found themselves too far from their midfield. The visitors were slightly unlucky in the manner they conceded, a hopeful shot from Luciano Vietto cannoned off the backside of Gustavo Gómez and looped into the top corner past Diego Morel.

A historic result - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

A historic result – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

The second half saw two key changes that allowed Paraguay to alter the course of the game, Miguel Almirón came on and was much more effective in picking his passes than Piris da Motta but also Derlis Gonzalez’s surprise entrance (we were told he was injured) unsettled the Argentinians. It wasn’t just his pace but his movement that, combined with more intelligent runs from Cecilio Dominguez, made life impossible for the albiceleste. Both goals were classic counter attacking moves, the first a pass from Almirón to Dominugez who had pulled left, he held up the ball well before releasing Bryan Montenegro ahead of him and the former West Ham forward’s cross was met at the back post by the Benfica man Gonzalez.  The second goal was more direct, Almirón winning the ball in the centre circle and released Dominguez with a wonderful through ball, the Sol de América striker finished in style with the outside of his foot.

Paraguay held on for the win and now have a rest before playing Chile on Tuesday, a win in that match would all but put them through to the final round.

Paraguay XI: Diego Morel; Teodoro Paredes, Matias Perez, Gustavo Gómez; Jorge Rojas, Robert Piris da Motta, Iván Ramirez, Manuel Balbuena; Juan Villamayor, Cecilio Dominguez, Bryan Montenegro

Subs: Miguel Almirón for Robert Piris da Motta; Derlis Gonzalez for Juan Villamayor; Miller Mareco for Matias Perez

By Ralph Hannah