That makes 2 in 2 now. I’m not talking about wins for England and Ireland, I mean games where the South or Central American team has dominated possession, completely played a team off the park but still come off the pitch on the losing side. On Monday night it was Mexico who were slain by a completely unimpressive England side who lacked any semblance of cohesiveness. Yesterday evening Paraguay lost 2-1 to a Republic of Ireland team who were simply parking the bus.
We were expecting to see Paraguay line up in their favoured 4-4-2 formation. They had fielded the 4-4-2 throughout the majority of their qualifying campaign, in 12 out of 18 matches. So it was a bit of a surprise to see them playing in a 3-4-3. Another surprise was the omission of Benfica’s star striker this season, Oscar Cardozo, there has been no news of an injury so we can only assume that head coach Gerrardo Martino wanted to take a look at new boy Lucas Barrios and give Roque Santa Cruz a run out.
While they had used the 4-4-2 more than any other formation during qualification, Martino has a very versatile squad at his disposal. This is demonstrated by the number of different formations he has been able to field over the last few years. He has been able to use a 5-3-2, 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 on a number of different occasions in competitive and friendly matches.
The most notable feature of Paraguay’s tactics last night was that when they had the ball their midfield was a flat four with a bias toward the left wing. Morel was overlapping Barrios again and again, able to double up with the Argentine and find plenty of space in the channel. This caused Liam Lawrence and Stephen Kelly no end of problems throughout the course of the 90 minutes.
On the opposite flank Vera was doing the opposite, cutting into the middle of the park and pulling men away from Gamarra who was providing width on the right wing. Roque Santa Cruz was playing a false-9 role, dropping very deep to link up with Vera and Riveros. This meant that Lucas Barrios was in fact the target man for Paraguay moving into the space which Santa Cruz had vacated. In general they held on to the ball well and were very patient in the build up but unable to provide the final killer ball to open up the Irish defence.
Without the ball Paraguay were a completely different proposition. The back 3 appeared to be marking totally zonally or not at all, Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane able to get amongst them far too easily and their wide midfielders failed to track the Irish wide men back effectively. This being the root cause for Ireland’s second goal. They played a very wide diamond in midfield with Riveros dropping back to attempt to provide a screen in front of the defence and the wide players Vera and Morel dropping slightly deeper to help cover the wings.
Short at the back
I think Paraguay’s biggest problem will come from crosses and high balls. They have some very good centre backs when the ball is on the floor, able to get to the ball quickly and deal with the situation efficiently. However their height stops them competing properly against some of the better headers of the ball.
- Paulo Caniza – 5’11.5″
- Julio Cesar Caceres 5’11.5″
- Denis Caniza 5’9″
This seems very short for centre backs of an International standard and will certainly have worried their coach in the run up to the tournament. If sides can get bodies in the box who are able to challenge for the ball they can get a few goals against them.
You can see the goals from yesterday’s game below:
Paraguay start their World Cup campaign on June 14th against Italy, followed by Slovakia on June 20th and New Zealand on June 24th. They will certainly be fighting it out with Slovakia for the runner up spot in Group F at the very least.