Profiles - World Cup Teams - Paraguay
Paraguay At first glance there are not too many similarities between the Irish and the Paraguayan soccer teams.

But in one respect they do have something in common. Neither can be considered among the favourites to win the 2002 World Cup but anyone who underestimates them is likely to get a very rude awakening.

But Paraguay also have similarities with Argentina. Like the Argentines, Paraguay play with a combination of skill and aggression. And like Argentina, they are a very tight-knit team.

Paraguay, who finished fourth in the South American group behind Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have qualified for their second successive World Cup and the fifth in their history.

In 1986 and 1998, Paraguay progressed to the last 16.

An impoverished, land-locked South American nation, the World Cup provides a rare chance for Paraguay to appear on the world stage.

In France four years ago, they progressed to the second round at the expense of Spain - who they face again this year - before bowing out to the host nation, beaten by a golden goal seven minutes from the end of their second-round tie.

On that occasion, Paraguay had one of the world's best defences.

They conceded only two goals in four games and, remarkably, Carlos Gamarra, the lynchpin of the defence, did not commit a single foul in the entire tournament.

Gamarra, who has played for Brazilian clubs Internacional, Corinthians and Flamengo, is now in Greece with AEK Athens. He is one of the world's most stylish defenders, a player who uses his outstanding powers of anticipation rather than physical prowess to nullify the opposition.

Paraguay still have their defence intact but, ominously for their first round opponents, they have added some firepower and midfield creativity to their traditional resolve.

Striker Jose Saturnino Cardozo led Mexico's Cruz Azul to the final of the 2001 Libertadores Cup with his goals while 20-year-old striker Roque Santa Cruz is finally starting to make an impact at European champions Bayern Munich.

In midfield, Guido Alvarenga has emerged as an able alternative to playmaker Roberto Acuna.

Although Paraguay have added some finesse, one of their main attacking options remains goalkeeper and captain Jose Luis Chilavert.

Chilavert was the team's second top scorer in the qualifiers after converting three penalties and a free kick. His huge and accurate kicks upfield also provide one of the team's most dangerous attacking options.

But, after he spat at Brazil's Roberto Carlos, they will have to do without him for their first Group B match against South Africa.

Paraguay's winner in the 2-1 victory over Brazil came after Chilavert took a free kick half-way inside his own half and popped the ball over the Brazil defence into the path of Jorge Campos, who fired home.

They will thank their lucky stars that Chilavert's original ban was reduced by a match, freeing him to face the Spaniards again. homepage