Paraguay National Team: The Ramón Díaz era begins with Costa Rica & Mexico friendlies

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?

Ramón Díaz speaks to all-time topscorer Roque Santa Cruz - Photo: APF

Ramón Díaz speaks to all-time topscorer Roque Santa Cruz – Photo: APF

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 Mexican connection, Paraguay's Mexican-based players. Photo: APF

The Mexican connection, Paraguay’s Mexican-based players. Photo: APF

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.

FULL SQUAD

ParaguaySquad

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International Friendly: Paraguay vs El Salvador preview

Paraguay vs El Salvador
Estadio Nicolas Leóz, Asunción
06/02/2013; 20:30 (23:30 GMT)
TV: Telefuturo, Paravision (both Paraguay)

Paraguay play their first game of the year against another CONCACAF side, El Salvador, it is the sixth consecutive friendly game they have faced a team from the region. The game takes place at Libertad’s ground and is the only run out before the two tricky away qualifiers next month in Uruguay and Ecuador.

Paraguay and El Salvador dispute the much sought after 'Copa Vision Banco' -  Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Paraguay and El Salvador dispute the much sought after ‘Copa Vision Banco’ – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Gerardo Pelusso has called up Robin Ramirez who last represented the albirroja under Chiqui Arce in their very first qualifier against Peru in Lima. He has also handed a debut call-up to Ivan Gonzalez Ferreira who played well for Guaraní last season and is one of several home-based players in a midfield that includes Cerro Porteño trio Jonathan Fabbro, Julio Dos Santos and Fidencio Oviedo while youngsteres Silvio Torales and Richard Ortiz are also part of the camp. There is a strong Mexican flavour with Paulo Aguilar, Paulo Da Silva and Edgar Benítez joining Ramirez from up north.

Robin Ramirez is part of Mexican legion including Edgar Benítez (background far left) - Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Robin Ramirez is part of Mexican legion including Edgar Benítez (background far left) – Photo: Prensa Selección Paraguaya de Fútbol

Interested to see how Pelusso plays, he usually prefers three central midfielders in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 formation with at least one physical striker and another pacey one. In the previous friendly the trio up front was Luis Caballero flanked by Edgar Benítez and José Ariel Nuñez all of whom are in this squad. In defence it is likely to be Ivan Piris at full back with the two Paulos in central defence.

I know very little about El Salvador, their former boss was Ruben Israel now at Libertad and their only foreign-based player is Rafael Burgos of Kesckeméti in Hungary.

Paraguay XI (probable): Diego Barreto; Ivan Piris, Paulo Da Silva, Pablo Aguilar, Lorenzo Melgarejo; Victor Ayala, Fidencio Oviedo, Julio Dos Santos; Edgar Benítez, Nelson Haedo or Luis Caballero, José Ariel Nuñez

Prediction: 2-0

Selected Odds: Paraguay win 1.32, Draw 5.4, El Salvador win 8.4; Under 2.5 goals 1.99

Best Bet: A Paraguayan victory is expected so there is no value there, unders is my option because Paraguay don’t usually score many (see below) and I only expect the game to go overs if El Salvador manage to score. As a secondary bet look into Paraguay winning at Half-Time (currently 1.8) as they’ve been leading at HT in 8 of their previous 11 friendlies.

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STATS

Paraguay vs El Salvador head-to-head: Pld 4 W 4 D 0 L 0 GF 7 GA 1

(Most recent meeting was 2005 in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay won 3-0)

Paraguay average goals scored (Pelusso era): 1.3
Paraguay average goals conceded (Pelusso era): 1.83
Paraguay average goals per game (Pelusso era): 3.17

Paraguay last 5 home friendlies

Pld 5 W 4 D 1 L 0 GF 8 GA 2

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Paraguay Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Antony Silva (Deportes Tolima, Colombia), Carlos Servín (Rubio Ñu, Paraguay)

Defenders: Paulo Da Silva (Pachuca, México), Pablo Aguilar (Tijuana, México), Iván Piris (Roma, Italia), Marcos Cáceres (Newell’s Old Boys, Argentina), Lorenzo Melgarejo (Benfica, Portugal), Miguel Samudio (Libertad, Paraguay), Pedro Benítez (Libertad, Paraguay), Salustiano Candia (Olimpia, Paraguay)
Midfielders: Víctor Cáceres (Flamengo, Brasil), Jonathan Fabbro (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Fidencio Oviedo (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Víctor Ayala (Lanús, Argentina), Julio Dos Santos (Cerro Porteño, Paraguay), Richard Ortiz (Olimpia, Paraguay), Silvio Torales (Nacional, Paraguay), Iván González Ferreira (Guaraní, Paraguay)
Forwards: Nelson Haedo (Valencia, España), Edgar Benítez (Toluca, México), Luis Neri Caballero (Samara, Rusia), José Ariel Núñez (Libertad, Paraguay), Robin Ramírez (Pumas UNAM, México)

By Ralph Hannah

All odds from Betfair Sports who will have an in-play market on this game