ASUNCION - Colombia, absent from the
World Cup finals since 1998, will be the team to watch at the
Copa America and in the 2014 South American qualifiers, Paraguay
coach Gerardo Martino said on Friday.
"Colombia have a very good group of players and they have
also taken on a very good coaching staff. That makes me think
things will go very well for Colombia," Martino told Reuters in
Radamel Falcao and Freddy Guarin shone in Porto's 5-1 rout
of Villarreal in Thursday's first leg of their Europa League
semi-final but there are more, very good young Colombian players
in Europe and Latin America, he said.
Colombia, reunited with 1998 World Cup coach Hernan Dario
Gomez, are in Group A with hosts Argentina, Bolivia and guest
team Japan in the July 1-24 Copa America.
Paraguay, in Group B with Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela,
face a tough task to follow their performance at last year's
World Cup in South Africa, where they reached the last eight for
the first time.
"I'm among those who believe the coming qualifiers, which
will have added expectancy because Brazil won't be there, will
be very tough," Martino said.
"They are always tough but I think this time more so," said
the 48-year-old Argentine, whose team finished third in the 2010
qualifiers behind Brazil and Chile and ahead of Argentina and
Martino pointed out that Chile have continued to play well
and get good results in friendlies despite a change of coach
this year when Claudio Borghi replaced fellow Argentine Marcelo
Experienced Uruguayan coach Sergio Markarian would organise
and strengthen underachieving Peru, he added.
Martino was not too happy with Paraguay's performances in
recent friendlies on tour in North America.
"The Paraguay (team) I coach don't always play well or can
only play well occasionally. However, their commitment in a game
has never varied, in defeat or victory," he said.
Martino would like to see his team control the ball more
instead of relying on their traditional strengths of defence and
"Our natural strengths are much more to force rivals into
mistakes that we can take advantage from than in developing a
passing game," he said.
Martino, who took charge in 2007, would like to work towards
Paraguay playing better football.
"That's something that has been hard work trying to achieve
these last four years. I think it's always been hard for
Paraguay," he said.
"We had a good World Cup and a good qualifying
series. Now we need to shake off the hangover, understand that
what had to happen happened and that the story starts again."
The South American qualifiers, a marathon nine-team, round
robin series, start this October and end two years later.
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