WORLD CUP: Team profile – paraguay (group b)

Paraguay went down by the same 1-0 margin in the second round of the last two World Cups, losing first to eventual champions France and then to eventual runner-ups Germany.

At France 1998, it took a golden goal from Laurent Blanc to deny them, while four years later Germany’s Oliver Neuville did the damage with two minutes left. Having booked their place at Germany 2006, the Albirroja are out to make up for their previous disappointments and prove once and for all that they are a force to be reckoned with in world football.

Although Paraguay only made sure of their third consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup on October 8, 2005 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, those in the know never doubted their ability to make it through. Despite suffering a heavy 4-1 defeat against Peru in their opening game, Anibal Ruiz’s side wasted no time in bouncing back and proving their worth with a series of big wins, both in Asuncion and away from home.

On the downside, they were guilty of a lack of consistency in their performances, a failing that proved hard to bear for fans, who voiced their frustration during the 1-0 home defeat by Colombia in their final qualifier.

The highlights included a 1-0 victory over Argentina, which was their first ever qualifying win over the Albicelestes.

After reaching three of the first six World Cups, Paraguay went into a decline and missed out on six consecutive final tournaments. When they finally emerged from the wilderness at Mexico 1986, Julio Cesar Romero and Roberto Cabanas steered the team through the group stages, only to suffer a 3-0 defeat at the hands of England in the second round.

The next time they reached the finals, at France 98, they were captained by the outrageously talented goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, who led the side to goalless draws against Bulgaria and Spain and a victory over Nigeria. Once in the second round, Blanc’s goal ended their unlikely dream, but the brave Paraguayans left France with their heads held high. Four years later in Korea/Japan, they once again exceeded expectations.

A draw with South Africa, a loss to Spain and a win over Slovenia earned them a date with Germany in the second round. Paraguay will be looking to improve on 1998 and 2002 when they ran into the formidable barrier of the eventual finalists in the last 16. The big question now for the South Americans is whether Germany 2006 could be third time lucky...

WC participations: 6 (1930, 1950, 1958, 1986, 1998, 2002)

WC honours: Last sixteen (1998, 2002)

Continental Titles: Copa America twice (1953, 1979)

Slogan: From the heart of America... this is the Guarani spirit