JOHANNESBURG - Paraguay exit the World Cup
having reached the last eight for the first time and conceded
just two goals in the entire tournament. With a little attacking
ambition they may have made an even more lasting impression.
Gerardo Martino's side will certainly be remembered as one
of the best defensively organised teams who showed, in all their
games, an impressive team ethic and discipline.
A 1-1 draw with Italy was a solid start to the tournament
and the 2-0 win over Slovakia effectively secured passage to the
last 16 - a process confirmed by a dull but calculated goalless
draw with New Zealand.
The game with Japan in the second round, though, showed a
disappointing side to the Paraguayan approach.
Facing a team that they should, given the pedigree of their
players, have been confident of beating, Martino's men focused
on frustrating Japan's midfield and the game ended a goalless
Had Paraguay lost the penalty shootout, they would have
headed home with a certain sense of under-achievement but they
won the lottery and their prize was a meeting with the European
champions at Ellis Park.
Oscar Cardozo had a second-half penalty saved by Spain
keeper Iker Casillas and once David Villa put Spain in front it
was hard to imagine a way back for Paraguay although Casillas
had to be alert to keep out Lucas Barrios and Roque Santa Cruz.
"We gave our all, we had opportunities but unfortunately
Spain scored and we didn't. We didn't have luck with us,"
Luck was one factor but Martino's reluctance to push players
forward and really test the Spanish defence, the inherent
cautiousness of Paraguay's approach, was also part of their
The back-four, marshalled superbly by Antolin Alcaraz,
proved to be of the highest standard throughout the tournament
but despite having some quality in attack, Paraguay were not
able to penetrate enough.
Martino's team have, however, established themselves among
the South American elite, and in what has ultimately become a
disappointing tournament for that region, Paraguay's resolute
rearguard will stand them in good stead for next year's Copa
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