Thousands gather to pray for Cabanas

ASUNCION - A crowd of some 10,000 people, many carrying flags and sporting the Paraguayan football team's red, white and blue colours, gathered at the Defensores del Chaco stadium on Tuesday to pray for Salvador Cabanas, the national team striker who was shot on Monday.

Cabanas, a key player in Paraguay's World Cup squad, was shot in the head in a Mexico City bar and is critical though stable in hospital after surgery. The bullet is still lodged in his head.

The crowd sang songs, held hands and prayed for the recovery of the 29-year-old forward, who played for top Mexican club America.

"This is the most important match of his life and we must help him kick this penalty," fan Jose Escobar told a redio station while the crowd chanted "Salvador, Salvador" in the 35,000 capacity stadium.

The Paraguay squad also attended a mass for Cabanas in the capital.

Paraguay will be taking part in their fourth successive World Cup finals in South Africa. They are grouped with world champions Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand.