Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Gerardo Martino

Best: Round two (1986, 1998, 2002)

Paraguay made it to the knockout stages in two of the last three World Cups (1998 and 2002), and they should fancy their chances of repeating that feat. Most of their players are based in Latin American leagues, although their star forwards Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) and the Borussia Dortmund pair Nelson Valdez and Lucas Barrios are established goal scorers in some of Europe's toughest leagues. The hard-working, cohesive unit built by coach Gerardo Martino set the pace in the Latin American qualifying group, and after seeing off Uruguay, Ecuador and Chile in early fixtures, underscored their credentials with an emphatic 2-0 win over Brazil and a 1-0 defeat of Argentina. Whether they have the midfield and defensive resources to cope with Italy — or the latter stages of the tournament — remains to be seen, but they'll expect to overcome New Zealand and Slovakia and progress to the second round.

Player to watch: Oscar Cardozo. The explosive Benfica forward was top scorer in the Portuguese league this season, and he'll be hoping to impress buyers for bigger European teams.