What: FIFA 2010 World Cup
Who: Paraguay vs New Zealand (Group F)
When: Thursday 24th June, 2010, at 15.00 UK Time
Where: Peter Mokoba Stadium, Polokwane, South Africa

First in Their Sights

The Paraguayans can finish first in Group F, all that is needed is victory over New Zealand here. The table toppers have followed the pattern of the other South American teams at the World Cup and looked very much at home so far.

In their first match Paraguay executed the perfect tactical plan against Italy and coach Gerardo Martino will have been happy with the draw, though victory too was possible. Next up, against Slovakia, Paraguay were as lethal in attack as they were brilliant in defence, and any lingering doubts about not reaching the second round were really put to bed.

Paraguay know the value of first place in the group, as they look to avoid Holland in the last 16. Led by Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez up front, the South Americans will hope to destroy New Zealand.

Everything’s All White

In what could well rank as the surprise of the tournament, New Zealand, after meetings with Slovakia and current World Cup holders Italy, remain unbeaten. Ricki Herbert’s men have delighted their fans back home, showing organisation, passion and determination to make up for any technical shortcomings.

So it is that New Zealand come into their last group game with a real chance of qualification – unthinkable only 10 days ago. Against the Azzurri, the All Whites played, as expected, a defensive game. Even so however, they had chances to realise the impossible victory. Real pressure is sure to be on against Paraguay though, as New Zealand’s fine displays have raised expectations.

Recent form

Greece 0-2 Paraguay (02/06; Friendly)
Italy 1-1 Paraguay (14/06; World Cup – Group F)
Paraguay 2-0 Slovakia (20/06; World Cup – Group F)

New Zealand:
Chile 2-0 New Zealand (09/06; Friendly)
New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia (15/05; World Cup – Group F)
Italy 1-1 New Zealand (20/06; World Cup – Group F)

Players to watch

Paraguay – Lucas Barrios: If Paraguay want to make sure of topping the group by scoring a good win, they will need goals from their forwards. Lucas Barrios has regularly found the net since first pulling on a Paraguay shirt and with his scoring boots on will be a real threat to the New Zealand back four.

New Zealand – Mark Paston: The All Whites’ goalkeeper was outstanding to help New Zealand reach the World Cup in the first place, saving a penalty against Bahrain. Against Italy again, Paston was superb and saved his side on no less than four occasions.

Match prediction

Paraguay will be keen to avoid Holland in the last 16 and there is a feeling that if they do they could be one of the real surprises of this World Cup. The South Americans are not just capable of nice attacking displays though, they have also shown an ability to stop other teams playing. New Zealand meanwhile are living the dream, but they will keep fighting to make sure their World Cup dream does not end with a heavy defeat. To this end Paraguay will have to work for the win and will probably grab it 1-0.

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