Paraguay don’t have many major footballing glories to their name. At club level domestic side Olimpia have picked up the Copa Libertadores three times, the last being in 2002. On the international scene the national side picked up silver at the 2004 Olympics and have two Copa America titles to their name, the last coming in 1979. However, having finished third in qualifying, just a single point behind Brazil, the country are confident they can at least make the first round of the knock-out stage.

The South Americans have managed to reach the second round three times before at the World Cup, yet have exited the tournament every time. Before Paraguay have the chance to conquer the second round though, they must first navigate a group containing Italy, New Zealand and Slovakia.

The Coach

Gerado Martino (ARG)
47 years old

Argentine coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino took over as national team boss in 2007, the year he was also voted South American Coach of the Season. Martino has made the team look forward, changing their mentality to an attacking one. The 47-year old has experience of coaching in the country, having led Libertad to the Torneo Apertura in 2002, 2003 and 2006, winning it too with Cerro Porteno in 2004. Martino also won the Torneo Clausura with Libertad (2002, 2006) and Cerro Porteno (2004), truly dominating domestic football.

Martino has worked hard to prepare his troops for the World Cup, certain that he will be praised to the heavens if he can break the second round curse. "Paraguay reached the second round at three different tournaments", said Martino. "I think with this team we can improve on that and make it a great World Cup. For me, not reaching the next stage would be failure."

Players to watch

Justo Villar
32 years old
Valladolid (SPA)

Justo Villar started his career with little Club Sol de America, then played for Libertad under Martino and won domestic titles with his now national team boss. The next stop for the keeper was Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 2004, where he won the Torneo Apertura that same year and was voted Paraguayan Footballer of the Year. He left for Spanish side Valladolid in 2008.



Roque Santa Cruz
28 years old
Manchester City (ENG)

The 28-year-old enjoyed an excellent start to his career while at Olimpia, being voted Paraguayan Footballer of the Year at the age of just 18. Despite having played for Bayern Munich in Germany and picked up a plethora of trophies, the striker never quite reproduced the form he showed for his country. A move to English Premier League side Blackburn Rovers seemed to bring the best out of Santa Cruz and he soon transferred to Manchester City. Experienced and at his third World Cup, the striker will be crucial to efforts to reach the knockout stage.

Óscar Cardozo
26 years old
Benfica (POR)

Oscar Cardozo faced some problems adapting his talents to the European game when he left for the continent in 2007, but once used to tighter marking soon turned into one of Benfica’s key players. With a huge 56 goals in 82 games since moving to Portugal, Cardozo is in outstanding form and has just picked up the league title to go with the domestic golden boot. This season he has scored 38 goals and it is no surprise ‘Tacuara’ has been linked to bigger clubs.

Lucas Barrios
25 years old
Borussia Dortmund (GER)

After Salvador Cabanas was shot in the head, Paraguay lost some of their attacking power. Lucas Barrios was able to change all that though. The Argentine forward is an option to replace Cabanas and replicate his importance in the team. Argentinian by birth, the Borussia Dortmund striker has a Paraguayan mother, making him eligible to realise his dream of playing in a World Cup. The striker headed to the Bundesliga in 2009 and in 33 appearances scored 19 goals. One season before that Barrios was turning out for Chilean side Colo-Colo and hit 49 goals in 53 games.

The view from Paraguay:

Despite some local bravado claiming this is Paraguay’s time to win the World Cup, the locals seem comfortable with the idea of not going further than the second round. Defender Antolin Alcaraz is more optimistic though. "The confidence within the team is great", said Alcaraz, "and I know we’re going to go far. How far? I don’t know, but we have the necessary tools to reach the semi-finals. I’m convinced of that."


Paraguay have shown they can compete with the best by beating both Argentina and Brazil, but at the World Cup experience cannot be underestimated. The South Americans should easily make the second round, but to go further they will face a team from Group E, which could well be Holland. It is possible Martino can lead them to the quarter-finals, but that would seem to be their absolute limit.

Did you know?

In his original pre-World Cup squad list, Martino named four Argentine players. Besides Barrios Paraguay also called up midfielders Sergio Aquino, Jonathan Santana and Nestor Ortigoza. While some may think the coach is simply choosing more players from his homeland, the local population is not concerned, a recent poll showing 60% supported Barrios receiving Paraguayan citizenship.

Group games

14/06/10: Paraguay  1 – 1  Italy     –   Cape Town
20/06/10: Paraguay  2 – 0  Slovakia     –   Bloemfontein
24/06/10: Paraguay  0 – 0  New Zealand     –   Polokwane