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Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Paraguay rise to occasion
Paraguay's victory over Sweden provided much reassurance

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Paraguay's win over Sweden gave a timely reminder of their principal attacking strength - their power in the air.

The goals came from Santa Cruz and Paredes. All through qualification the duo excelled at attacking the high ball in their opponent's penalty area.

Other dangerous headers of the ball are striker Jose Cardoso, rested against Sweden, and centre back Celso Ayala, who has a prodigious leap.

Open Quote
Maldini insists he suffers no influence from anyone in selecting the side, but that now looks like a hollow claim
Close Quote

As important as the man who provides the header is the one who gets in the cross. And Paraguay will be pleased that the goals against Sweden came from two very different supply lines.

The first was from open play, from a break down the left and wonderful cross by Jorge Campos. Shrewdly recalled by coach Cesare Maldini, Campos is a flying winger who fits perfectly into a counter attacking game.

He will probably be used as a substitute in the World Cup, although his performance against Sweden makes it harder to leave him out.

Paraguay's second goal was set up by a free kick, superbly struck by Francisco Arce.

Paraguay's right back is David Beckham's main rival for the owner of the world's best right-footed cross. His corners and free kicks are hit with venom, and set up a steady stream of chances.

As shown against Sweden, with skilled supply and proficient heading Paraguay are always capable of snatching a goal from nowhere. But the other lesson of the Sweden game is that, compared with France 98, Paraguay are now more likely to let goals in.

Defending has never been Arce's speciality, and now, aged 31, injuries have slowed him down and made him more vulnerable.

Francisco Arce
Arce rivals David Beckham as a right-footed crosser

Sweden's goal came when he failed to close down Andreas Andersson.

Both members of Paraguay's famed centre back partnership are also over 30. Ayala and Gamarra are not as quick over the ground as they were, and suffered at times against the Swedish strikers.

Their problems emphasise the need for a good midfield anchorman to protect the defence.

Paraguay have an excellent candidate in Julio Cesar Enciso. But he has fallen out with captain and goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert.

Maldini insists that he suffers no influence from anyone in selecting the side. But that now looks like a hollow claim.

The World Cup squad was announced after the Sweden match, and Enciso's name was not on the list.

In inspired form, Enciso has been Olimpia's best player in a run which has seen them qualify for the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League. But for the national team he has been overlooked.

Instead there has been a late call-up for his reserve at Olimpia, Juan Carlos Franco. It is a perverse decision, which Paraguay may well have cause to regret.

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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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