Tag Archives: Paraguay

8. Paraguay

What Went Right?  This side was all about DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE! Paraguay dropped a number of players back into their own half and with workmanlike organization closed it down. They were so good at compacting the center of their own end and maintaining their defensive rigidity that they gave their opponents hardly any space to get an attack through (there’s actually a certain genius to that). The players did such a fantastic job of playing within this disciplined system, subjugating their individual aspirations for the good of the, together conspiring to make every team they faced look like bumbling heavy-footed idiots with an almost pathological inability to complete a pass. Basically, they did nothing that hasn’t characterized this team for the better part of 15 years. They gave up a lot of possession but that was intended. The idea was to lure their opponents into a false sense of security in the back, and then – WHAM – hit them on the quick counterattack. Like every other defense-first team Paraguay of course relied heavily on opposition mistakes and mental lapses. Made extensive use of long passes and through balls. Definitely a different team as the game progresses; once they’ve frustrated their opponents with their ability to close down the back Paraguay gets a little more adventuresome in the last 15 to 20 minutes, actually sustaining some semblance of an attack and employing a mostly east-west approach to going forward. They were pretty decent at set pieces and corners, though. Most of all, not unlike Uruguay and Ghana, were the recipients of an obscene amount of good fortune with their draw; minnows Slovakia and New Zealand, an Italian side that was barely a shell of its former glory, and an upstart Japan side to face in the Round of 16.

What Went Wrong?  Counterattack was slipshod at best. Crosses, through balls, and long passes weren’t very good at all, which goes a long way towards explaining why the target men up front weren’t able to get on the end of them. Front players didn’t have the world’s greatest finishing skills. Midfield couldn’t create a thought, much less any kind of imaginative or sustained attack. The few times Paraguay did attack it was almost exclusively through the center, virtually ignoring the flanks altogether. Didn’t make diagonal runs or take advantage of space at all.

Who Stepped Up To The Plate?  The one big mistake aside, Justo Villar was pretty steady in goal. The backline of Antolin Alcaraz, Paulo da Silva, Claudio Morel Rodriquez and Dario Veron were as disciplined and reliable as they come. Victor Caceres was pretty good starting the break. Oscar Cardoza and Nelson Valdez got on the end of quick service and got some quality shots off. Good attacking energy when Enrique Vera came into a game off the bench

Who Didn’t Show Up?  Cristian Riveros was just a statue in the midfield; good on defense but a stop sign in possession. Edgar Baretto and Jonathan Santana were sad excuses as wingers; I’m still trying to figure out what their purpose was. Outside of Vera the reserves were pretty useless. It’s time for Roque Santa Cruz to go; he just hasn’t done anything to justify his inclusion on the side for years.

How Was The Coaching?  Paraguay executed the unwavering, inflexible system Gerardo Martino employed, so I guess Martino did a pretty good job. It wasn’t very pleasing to watch, but damned if it didn’t get them to the quarterfinals. I hear that Martino tried to install an attacking system two years ago in qualifying but got some really bad results. Sorry it didn’t work.

Did They Finish Where They Were Expected?  No, they finished much better than expected. Most of us surmised before the World Cup that Paraguay would get out of their group. We were just hoping there would be somebody with a little more football oomph than Japan waiting to take them out and save the rest of us the torture of having to watch them any further.

Now What?  Unfortunately for Paraguay this 8th place finish is probably going to convince them that they should keep doing what they are doing at the expense of playing more attack-minded, positive football, instead of realizing that an obscenely favorable draw is what got them this far. If so then this is as good as it’s going to get for Paraguay for the foreseeable future. That’s really too bad…

South Africa Match Observations: Quarterfinals, Part II

Some random observations after the Quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Argentina 0-4 Germany: It took less than 3 minutes for Germany’s Tomas Mueller to get on the end of a set piece free kick from Bastien Schweinsteiger to head home the game’s first goal. Germany let it be known from the beginning that they were going to take advantage of space, switch play frequently, use deft touch passing, and make diagonal runs. Argentina wanted to slowly build sustained attacks but early on Germany was disrupting their play in the midfield; their speedy counterattack was working against the Germans, though. Good back-and-forth action; obviously these two teams were going to attack each other relentlessly. Argentina’s attack was surprisingly fundamental; they weren’t doing the things (spreading the field, diagonal runs, taking advantage of space) that had worked for them until now. I would argue that this was a result of Argentina having respect for the German counterattack and not wanting to get caught with their pants down. But going down early Argentina was sending men forward in numbers. Mueller and Schweinsteiger were the focal point of the German attack (expected to see more of Mesut Oezel contribute in this role) and a wall in front of the backline. About 20 minutes in Argentina started to make effective through balls to forwards (particularly Carlos Tevez) frequently beating the German offside trap. Part of the reason the German backline was able to hold most of the game was because, unlike fullback Phillip Lahm on the right flank going forward with frequency as part of the attack, Jerome Boateng stayed home on the left and took care of his defensive responsibilities, making a virtual 3-man backline on Argentine counters to effectively disrupt Argentina’s ability to go forward on their right. Better offensive buildup from Argentina in the second half, spreading the ball around and maintaining possession effectively. But they were vulnerable in the back, where their already weak defense was beginning to lose their shape. Three quick goals from Miroslav Klose in the 69th and 89th minutes and Arne Friedrich (!) in the 74th minute put paid to the fact that when things were falling apart, (1) Argentina’s pre-tournament perception that they were weak in the back was very accurate, and (2) Argentine coach Diego Maradona had no answers in the face of things going wrong. A stunningly clinical victory for Germany, who easily picked Argentina apart. I don’t know what’s wrong with their club teams, but Klose and Lukas Podolski are still world-class players and clearly not out of form. The future of German football is in good hands with Oezel and Mueller, both clearly world class players in the making.

Paraguay 0-1 Spain: Paraguay dropped all of their strikers for this match. Paraguay played a pressing game, keeping the ball in the Spain half even when they didn’t have the ball. Spain, on the other hand, were probably more patient than they’ve been to this point, content to keep their composure and getting forward very carefully. Clearly Spain was going to wait and see if Paraguay could keep the frenetic workrate and pressure up all game long. Paraguay did such a good job of closing down the ball by multiple players that Spain couldn’t put together a creative, sustained attack. On the occasions that David Villa or Fernando Torres were on the ball in the penalty area the Paraguayan backline were cool customers, denying space, unworriedly taking the ball away from the ball carrier, then calmly distributing the ball forward (not panicking and just clearing it out). How’s this for stranger than fiction? Spanish defender Gerrard Pique pulled down Oscar Cardoza in the box which got Paraguay a penalty in the 57th minute – only for Spanish keeper Iker Casillas to stop the penalty. Then less than a minute later, Paraguayan defender Alcarez brought down David Villa in the box which got Paraguay a penalty in the 59th minute – that also resulted in a miss by Xabi Alonso. You just got a feeling that Spain was eventually going to get that one goal as they managed to open things up dramatically, with Paraguay just not able to keep that furious pressure up for 90 minutes. The eventual goal came about in the 82 minute when a Spanish breakaway resulted in two shots on the Paraguayan goal at point-blank range, and David Villa finally breaking through on a goal-post rebound. It was academic after that: Paraguay tried to attack in numbers but didn’t have the finesse to create any sustained offense (although Casillas came up big on a lose ball in the box in the 87th minute). The resulted we all expected happened but kudos to a Paraguayan side that made Spain work for it. Spain’s semi against Germany should be the game of the tournament.

— daveydoug

South Africa Match Observations: Round Of 16, Part IV

Some random observations after the First Knockout Round:

Paraguay 0-0 Japan a.e.t. (5-3 pk): Discipline and distribution – two keys to both evenly matched teams that have made it farther than anybody expected. Paraguay was a little more physical, while Japan played off the ball carrier more than closed them down. Not very daring or adventuresome offensively early on, both sides were more tentative and just waited for each other to make a mistake in their own end to get chances on goal. Japan started to find space in the final third but manifested it by taking long shots just outside the penalty area. Paraguay used their height advantage by making attacking headway on set pieces, throw-ins and 50-50 balls, while Japan used their speed to make headway into the final third. Few opportunities for either team in the first half but nothing on target. After the half Japan started closing down Paraguayan players on the ball, as well as finding space in the center of the field to create an attack in the final third. Paraguay started to get the ball in the attacking end but their service into the box to their two big target men Barrios and Santa Cruz lacked quality. About two-thirds of the way through the game both sides opened up offensively and there was a lot of action in both penalty areas, but both sides managed to maintain their defensive shape. You just got a sense that whoever scored first was going to win – or the game was going to go to extra time and even penalties. To their credit, neither Paraguay nor Japan played it safe in extra time; both teams furiously attacked their opponent’s penalty (or as much as these two disciplined teams could). So no surprise that it ended after 120 minutes on p.k.’s. An unsatisfying ending to an unsatisfying game, but Paraguay gets through. Japan has nothing to hang their heads about; they played fantastic football throughout their entire stay in South Africa. Paraguay has done it with a suffocating defense like they have for over 12 years now, so they certainly have no reason to change anything about their play now that they are in the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

Portugal 0-1 Spain: The Battle of Iberia. Sublime combination passing on all sides of the pitch followed by early quality shots on goal by David Villa for Spain, who announced early on that they were going to build up their quality attack and test Portugal’s discipline in the back early on. This had the added benefit of keeping possession away from Portugal, which kept the ball away from Ronaldo, who had to spend a better part of the game chasing the ball as opposed to staying on his customary and comfortable left side. Portugal did have a significant height advantage, which they used to good effect on set pieces and 50-50 balls. The triumvirate of Tiago, Simao and Ronaldo were able to get the ball in the midfield and spread the Spanish midfield and defense on occasion, switching play from flank to flank and getting shots off albeit not on target. The better offensive buildup was by Spain, though. Portugal’s buildup was more a result of Spain sustaining possession to the point of moving too many men forward and then Spain losing their concentration, with Portugal taking advantage (but still no real quality shots on goal or an inability for their front players to get an end on service). Not exactly clear why Hugo Almeida stayed on the pitch for four Portugal fixtures; he was practically useless up front, so he was replaced by Danny, who moved more to the left while Ronaldo played more centrally. Fernando Torres had a tough time finding his shot, also, so he was replaced by Fernando Llorente, who started making quality shots on goal from the jump. Things began warming up for Spain because for whatever reason Portugal was giving up way too much possession. That was pretty much the primary reason why Villa finally scored off of a patient buildup by Spain (with a big assist from Andres Iniesta, who was massively responsible for patiently holding the ball in the final third and finding his man despite being surrounded by Portuguese defenders). Such precise passing by Spain had Portugal just kind of running all over the place, keeping them from having any decent amount of possession. In the waning minutes Portugal just pounded the ball in the final third, hoping that somebody would get on the end of it. A red card on defender Ricardo Costa put the kibosh on their hopes. Outside of opening up a can of whupass on the worst team in this tournament, this was a rather mundane performance by Portugal and Ronaldo, who continues not to be the prime-time player he needs to be on the national stage. It will be interesting to see how Paraguay’s defense handles the patient creativity of Spain.

– davvydoug