We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa
Appearance: Eighth overall, fourth consecutive
Last time there: 2006, exited in first round
Best performance: Second round (1986, 1998, 2002)
Defense. Defense. Defense.
Simply put, this is Paraguay's mission when they take the field.
In 18 CONMEBOL (South America) qualifying matches, Paraguay conceded merely 16 goals, ranking them second in the region in that category (only favored Brazil was better).
Because of their ability defensively, Paraguay has to be considered a dangerous side in this tournament. Given that talent, they have quite the favorable draw.
Coach Gerardo Martino knows how to coach this defensive style, and he also has plenty of ammunition to use to movivate his team.
After all, Paraguay is perfectly capable of being the top squad from South America in this tournament. They've beaten Brazil and Argentina, who get all the love from the media when talk turns to South American sides.
What worries people is their inconsistency. Yes, they have beaten the "big two" from their continent, but they've also lost matches they shouldn't have, including to Colombia at home when they could have clinched second place in their group.
Goalkeeper Justo Villar was injured early in the 2006 finals, failing to even complete one match there. Villar is a good set pieces threat, and he's also very solid in goal. Dario Veron, Julio Cesar Caceres, Paulo Da Silva, and Denis Caniza are the main cogs defensively, with Da Silva's name being familiar to European fans because of his play with Sunderland of the Barclays Premier League.
When Paraguay manages to create scoring chances, they need Nelson Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz to finish. Both play club ball in Europe, and both are capable offensive threats on a team that largely lacks them.
If Paraguay can figure out a way to draw with or edge out Italy, they could win the group. They're a heavy favorite to move on, as neither New Zealand nor Slovakia are regarded as threats to advance.
June 14 vs. Italy (Cape Town)
June 20 vs. Slovakia (Bloemfontein)
June 24 vs. New Zealand (Polokwane)