Paraguay determined to stamp mark

BLOEMFONTEIN - Paraguay see no reason to pay deference to Latin American giants Argentina and Brazil and they know they are carrying the dreams of their small nation with them when they go into battle with Slovakia on Sunday.

Paraguay opened their World Cup Group F campaign by drawing with world champions Italy after showing their mettle on the way to South Africa by beating their two illustrious neighbours in the qualifiers.

"The true motivation is to play and to defend the colours of our country," defender Claudio Morel told a news conference on the eve of the match.

"I don't know if we are in the shadow of Argentina and Brazil but we are here to compete against these teams on an equal footing."

A small country of six million people, Paraguay's violent history has also bred a tenacity and patriotic spirit that serves its footballers well.

"It is difficult to satisfy the people, they have dreams, we want the country to be with us, we don't want to disappoint the country," said coach Gerardo Martino, an Argentine who made his name in Paraguayan club football before taking the national job.


Martino was hesitant to say how far he thought Paraguay could go in a tournament in which Latin American teams have so far shone while several of their European rivals have had a stuttering start.

Paraguay have reached the second round three times in seven previous World Cup outings.

Both Martino and Rodriguez recognised that Slovakia were a talented side who would provide tough opposition, despite squandering two points when they gave up a last-minute equaliser to unfancied New Zealand in their opener.

All four teams sit on one point after one match.

Paraguay have 22 players fit, with only midfielder Jonathan Santana sidelined, the coach said.

He declined to be drawn on the starting line-up but is likely to use a 4-3-3 formation at the Free State Stadium with Roque Santa Cruz coming into the side for Aureliano Torres alongside Nelson Valdez and Lucas Barrios.

The "Albiroja" will be especially wary of being caught on the counter-attack by the Slovaks.

"I guess we all watch out for our opponents, the only responsibility we have is to qualify, it doesn't matter when it comes or who against," Martino said.

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