Finally Paraguay have a full time manager in Ramón Díaz and he takes charge of his first game on 26 March in San José against Costa Rica in an international friendly. That game is followed by a friendly in Kansas against Mexico as Paraguay look ahead to the Copa América in June.
The squad is significantly different from Victor Genes’ call ups last year against Peru, Díaz has recalled players and put his faith in foreign-based stars over the domestic-based players. He has even nationalized a new striker – Raúl Bobadilla of Augsburg – to confirm that revolution is here. Or is it?
The average age of the squad is 27.5 years old which in theory sounds like it is made up of players at their peak but there are 7 players aged 30 or over who, barring Justo Villar, had been written off at the last Copa América. The recalls for Lucas Barrios, Paulo Da Silva and Marcos Cáceres suggest that Díaz isn’t convinced by the new crop of players and he feels he has a very small talent pool to work with.
There is another theory, that the call ups of these veterans is more to guide the younger generation – exciting players such as Gustavo Gómez, Jorge Rojas and Oscar Romero are all in the team and they will benefit from the older hands. Also it might be “horses for courses” with 7 Mexico-based players being called up possibly for their insider knowledge on “El Tri”.
The friendlies are challenging in themselves, the Albirroja have yet to beat World Cup Quarter-Finalists Costa Rica in San José in four attempts, with one draw and three defeats in their previous meetings. Just last year they fell 2-1 to the Ticos with central defender Gustavo Gómez grabbing the only goal.
Their record against Mexico isn’t great on US soil, they’ve played four times and won just once in Chicago in 1999, since then a draw and two consecutive defeats. Their last win against Mexico was a friendly in Mexico City in 2007 through an Oscar Cardozo strike, but later that year in the Copa América they were thrashed 6-0 and in their most recent game in 2011 they lost 3-1.
It is a tough start for Ramón Díaz but the squad selection suggests he is looking for results rather than blood youngsters.