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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Paraguay's road to the finals
Roque Santa Cruz in action for Bayern Munich
Santa Cruz has impressed up front for Paraguay
BBC Sport Online examines how Paraguay qualified for their second consecutive World Cup.

It needed a 'golden goal' from France captain Laurent Blanc to finally end Paraguay's obdurate resistance in the last 16 of the 1998 World Cup finals.

None of France's attacking triumvirate that day - Thierry Henry, Youri Djorkaeff and David Trezeguet - could penetrate one of the most impressive defensive units in the tournament.

And it is likely to be the same story again four years later in Korea and Japan, the first time Paraguay have appeared in two consecutive World Cup finals.

Qualifying campaign
L 0-2 Peru (a)
W 1-0 Uruguay (h)
W 3-1 Ecuador (h)
L 1-3 Chile (a)
W 2-1 Brazil (h)
D 0-0 Bolivia (a)
D 1-1 Argentina (a)
W 3-0 Venezuela (h)
W 2-0 Colombia (a)
W 5-1 Peru (h)
W 1-0 Uruguay (a)
L 1-2 Ecuador (a)
W 1-0 Chile (h)
L 0-2 Brazil (a)
W 5-1 Bolivia (h)
D 2-2 Argentina (h)
L 1-3 Venezuela (a)
L 0-4 Colombia (h)

Coach Cesare Maldini, who replaced Sergio Makarian, has inherited the majority of players that impressed during the 1998 finals, as well as in the marathon South American qualifying group stages.

Paraguay finished with 30 points, securing the fourth - and final - qualifying berth, finishing ahead of Uruguay, Columbia and Chile.

The highlight of their campaign was beating neighbours Brazil 2-1 at home, but other worthy results included two hard-fought draws against runaway group winners Argentina.

Indeed, Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa described the second match, a 2-2 draw in Buenos Aires, as "the most intense game I can remember since taking charge".

They should have finished the group in second place behind their dominant neighbours, but instead slipped to defeats away in Venezuela and at home to Columbia in their last two qualifying matches.

It was these performances that ostensibly led to Makarian's departure.

But, once again, veterans Carlos Gamarra, Celso Ayala and Fransisco Arce will form a dependable defensive unit this summer.

They will be marshalled by the charismatic Jose Luis Chilavert - Paraguay's deadly free-kick and penalty exponent and occasional striker.

A new and exciting development has come up front, where the precocious Roque Santa Cruz of Bayern Munich has formed a formidable partnership with Jose Cardozo.

Paraguay's opponents in Group B are Spain, Slovenia and South Africa. If Maldini's rapport with his squad continues to grow, Paraguay could at least reach the second stage.

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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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