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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Paraguay's age-old curse
The Paraguay bench erupt in celebration after Francisco Arce scores the second
Paraguay's joy was short-lived having been 2-0 up
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery

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Pulled back to 2-2 by a cruel deflection and a harsh penalty, Paraguay might consider themselves unlucky not to have claimed all three points against South Africa.

But a side which spends the last 30 minutes pinned back in their own half are open to such quirks of fate.

It was a similar story in their build-up to the World Cup.

In London against Nigeria, and away to Sweden, Paraguay were hanging on in the second half having had the better of the first.

Open Quote
We did very well for 45 minutes and then we just stopped
Close Quote
Cesare Maldini
Without taking away from the merits of South Africa's comeback, it does seem to be true that Paraguay are struggling to last the full 90 minutes.

This was not the case in qualification, when the problems frequently came at the other end of the game.

They were slow starters, and sometimes had to feel their way through a tricky first 15 minutes.

But once they had settled into the game they were relentless to the final whistle.

The most likely explanation for the change is time. Paraguay are a side who have grown old together.

Of the starting line-up against South Africa, eight are the wrong side of 30 - including the entire midfield quartet.

Diego Gavilan, Gustavo Morinigo and Juan Carlos Franco came on in the second half as coach Cesare Maldini urgently felt the need for younger legs in the midfield.

Francisco Arce holds his head in his hands at the final whistle
Final whistle despair
Carlos Paredes was badly missed.

The dynamic Porto midfielder's skill, drive and lung power are vital to his team's hopes.

Ruled out by injury, frantic efforts will be made to get him fit in time to face Spain in Jeonju on Friday.

Julio Cesar Enciso, Paraguay's best defensive midfielder, was also badly missed. For him, though, there is no way back.

After falling out with goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert he was controversially left out of the squad.

His ability to shield the defence would have been invaluable against South Africa's late onslaught.

But if Maldini is to be criticised for excluding Enciso, he must be praised for the selection of Julio Cesar Caceres.

The Olimpia youngster slotted in at right-back to take care of the dangermen operating down South Africa's left flank.

His introduction allowed the usual right-back Francisco Arce to push further forward and do what he does best - hit magnificent balls into the opposing box.

GRAPHIC ANALYSIS
Vulnerable defensively, Arce is a wonderful striker of crosses, corners and free-kicks.

He has been a sensation for years in Brazilian club football and it is baffling that he has never been picked up by a Premiership club.

He is the best friend a centre-forward can have.

While Arce still had wind in his sails, Roque Santa Cruz had a superb supply line.

Paraguay's 'Baby Goal' showed in the first half that he had the beating of the South African defence on the ground and in the air.

But tired limbs elsewhere in the team meant that there was no chance for him to give such a display in the second half.


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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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