World Cup: Paraguay aiming to advance to round 2

Updated: 25 February 2007 10:40 IST

Paraguay will be relying on strikers Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Haedo Valdez to take it into the second round of the World Cup.

World Cup: Paraguay aiming to advance to round 2

Asuncion:

Paraguay will be relying on strikers Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Haedo Valdez to take it into the second round of the World Cup for the third straight time. Often lost in the shadow of Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay has made six World Cup appearances since 1934 and was knocked out in 1998 by champion France and in 2002 by finalist Germany. However, former captain and goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert has criticized Paraguay as being too old to make an impact at the June 9-July 9 tournament in Germany, where the team will face England, Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago in the first round. ''Paraguay is an old team, veterans who can barely run,'' Chilavert said. Captain and defender Carlos Gamarra is 35 and playing in his third and last World Cup, Deportivo La Coruna midfielder Roberto Acuna is also 35, while forward Jose Saturnino Cardozo is 36. But two players considered key to Paraguay's chances haven't yet hit their peak - Bayern Munich's Santa Cruz is 25, and Werder Bremen's Haedo Valdez is 22. The pair led Paraguay to a 1-0 win over Argentina in a World Cup qualifier last September. Santa Cruz scored, while Haedo Valdez ran circles around Argentina's defense. It was Haedo who scored the goal against Venezuela last year that qualified Paraguay for Germany. ''With Nelson, we've only played two games together,'' Santa Cruz said. ''But I hope we can be reunited for the World Cup.''

Paraguay also has Cardozo, who is dangerous inside the area, tenacious forward Nelson Cuevas and Acuna as players who can make a difference. In 1998, France needed the first, and only, World Cup golden goal - scored by defender Laurent Blanc in the 113th minute - to beat Paraguay after it was 0-0 after regular time. In 2002, Germany striker Oliver Neuville scored with two minutes left as Paraguay lost 1-0. In Group B, Paraguay plays England on June 10 in Frankfurt, Sweden in Berlin on June 15, and Trinidad and Tobago in Kaiserslautern on June 20. (AP)

Topics : Football
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