Paraguay are the great overachievers of South American football, competing in their fourth successive World Cup despite having a population of just 6.5m. The Guaraní always looked in control during qualifying, beating Argentina, Brazil and Chile. They have made the last 16 in two of the last three World Cups, and a kind draw means hopes are high they can do so again in 2010.
However, the last 18 months have been difficult. A slightly disappointing end to qualifying saw Paraguay limp across the finishing line, and subsequent friendly results have been mixed - a creditable draw with the Netherlands was preceded by defeat by Qatar. While undoubtedly strong up front, due to the likes of Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo, they are short of creativity and goal threat from midfield, so coach Gerardo Martino must make up for those shortcomings by getting his tactics right. He has experimented with both 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 and beat Brazil using three strikers, an uncharacteristically bold selection. That fluidity could make Paraguay awkward opponents.
Aim: A first World Cup quarter-final is the dream. Coach Gerardo Martino says he will quit if the side do not reach the last 16.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
CRISTIAN RIVEROS Attacking midfielder whose forward forays are key for Paraguay. Joined Sunderland on a free in May and could prove a canny piece of business for the Black Cats - he had a £10m price tag a few years ago.
JUSTO VILLAR The Valladolid keeper has played just eight minutes at the previous two World Cups. Unused in 2002, he injured his ankle in the opener against England four years later. After leaving the pitch in tears, he sat out the rest of the tournament.
OSCAR CARDOZO Lanky Benfica striker is Paraguay's equivalent to Lionel Messi - unstoppable at club level but unable to reproduce that form for his country. Criticised by fans in qualifying, the absence of Salvador Cabañas means he must raise his game.
GERARDO MARTINO is one of three Argentine coaches at the 2010 World Cup, along with Albiceleste boss Diego Maradona and Chile's Marcelo Bielsa. Nicknamed 'El Tata', Martino says he learned a lot from playing under Bielsa at Newell's Old Boys. There was no Maradona-style rant when Paraguay's qualification was assured - mild-mannered Martino instead praised his predecessor, Anibal Ruiz, arguing he deserved credit for blooding many of the Guarani's rising stars.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
President Fernando Lugo declared a national holiday to celebrate qualification. So tell your boss you are owed a day off because of your recently discovered Paraguayan ancestry, and put your feet up when the Guarani face Italy on 14 June.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Paraguay's World Cup qualifying highlights
D 0-0 Peru (A) W 1-0 Uruguay (H) W 5-1 Ecuador (H) W 3-0 Chile (A) W 2-0 Brazil (H) L 4-2 Bolivia (A) D 1-1 Argentina (A) W 2-0 Venezuela (H) W 1-0 Colombia (A) W 1-0 Peru (H) W 2-0 Uruguay (A) D 1-1 Ecuador (A) L 2-0 Chile (H) L 2-1 Brazil (A) W 1-0 Bolivia (H) W 1-0 Argentina (H) W 2-1 Venezuela (A) L 2-0 Colombia (H) Qualified in third place in South American standings
WORLD CUP BEST
1986, 1998 & 2002: They reached the second round in each of these years before being beaten by England, France and Germany respectively.
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