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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 06:59 GMT 07:59 UK
Cardoso waits for chance
Roque Santa Cruz scores for Parraguay against South Africa
Roque Santa Cruz would benefit from more support
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Paraguay coach Cesare Maldini came in for some harsh criticism after his side let slip a two-goal lead against South Africa.

The fact that Paraguay spent the last half hour pinned back inside their own half has been seen as some as an adoption of the defensive methods for which Maldini and Italian football are famous.

The question now is whether Maldini will respond by picking Jose Cardoso for the next game against Spain.

The 31-year-old Cardoso is a bustling striker who has improved with the passing of time.

He is an infinitely better player than he was four years ago, when he was part of Paraguay's frankly feeble France 98 attack.

It seems that years in Mexican football have done wonders for his physical preparation.

He has become an aggressive striker whose success has given him considerable confidence in his own ability.

Cardoso led the Paraguay attack with some distinction in qualification.

With six goals he was the side's top scorer, and there was general surprise when he was left on the bench for the game against South Africa.

Pressed for an explanation afterwards, Maldini would go no further than saying that Cardoso "did not figure in our plans for this game."

Ageing Spanish defence

It is easy to see how the side could benefit from his inclusion in the game plan for the next game.

Roque Santa Cruz looked in devastating form in the first half of the game against South Africa, but he was left isolated in the second.

Cardoso's swaggering presence could help Paraguay's "Baby Goal" stay in the game.

His physical approach could divert the attention of opposing defenders and create more space for Santa Cruz.

The pair formed a fine partnership in qualification.

Now could be the time to bring them back together. But Maldini may well be worried by the opposition.

Paraguay face a Spain side who would appear to be the best team in Group B.

Paraguay coach Cesare Maldini
Maldini is cautious by nature

Moreover, it is unlikely Spain will take the Paraguayans lightly.

It was a mistake they were perhaps guilty of in France 98, when a 0-0 draw between the two teams sent the Spaniards home early.

Maldini, cautious by nature, could decide that this is a game where his priority is to re-inforce the midfield, not add another extra striker.

On the other hand, a glance at the centre of the Spanish defence would warm the cockles of an optimist's heart.

Hierro is 34, while Nadal is closing in on 36.

Both have surely seen better days.

The bustle and experience of Cardoso together with the class and exhuberance of Santa Cruz could cause them no end of problems.


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 SQUAD PROFILES
GROUP B
  P GD PTS
SPAIN 3 +5 9
PARAGUAY 3 0 4
SOUTH AFRICA 3 0 4
SLOVENIA 3 -5 0




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