Paraguay v Japan preview
Paraguay head into their game against Japan in the second round of the World Cup as favourites to progress.
By Mike Barton
Last Updated: 29/06/10 12:55pm
Paraguay head into their game against Japan in the second round of the World Cup as favourites to progress, but this will not be an easy game for the South Americans.
There is unlikely to be many goals in this game in Pretoria on Tuesday, with both sides having scored just seven between them and conceded three so far in the finals.
Paraguay may have topped Group F and proved how strong their continent's teams have been during this tournament, but the Japanese have caused some surprises so far, impressing in wins over Cameroon and Denmark and only narrowly losing out to Holland.
They have not played the enterprising football of the Chileans or had the star quality in Luis Suarez or Diego Forlan that Uruguay possess, but Paraguay have always been a tough, solid side, so far conceding just one goal that came in their opening 1-1 draw with the underwhelming Italians.
Lack of firepower
A 0-0 draw with New Zealand displayed a worrying lack of firepower, but arguably their finest players come in their attack, with Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios, Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo all options up front for manager Gerardo Martino.
Martino was unhappy with his forwards' profligacy in front of goal, and they may find it tough to break through, even having trouble breaking down a poor Slovakia side who showed no attacking threat as they went down 2-0.
Paraguay are likely to try to make their physical presence count against the less imposing Japanese, but they will need to improve their finishing if they want to make it any further than the quarter-finals.
Japan have been a busy, hard-working, organised and disciplined side, benefiting from the skills of Keisuke Honda, who has proved to be one of the most impressive players of this World Cup so far, leading the line well and scoring a stunning long-range free kick against the Danes.
It is the first time the Japanese have ever made the last 16 of the finals outside of their nation, after reaching the same stage when they hosted the 2002 competition, but they will have to do what no other Asian side has done in the history of the World Cup and beat South American opposition.
They were not expected to make much of an impact this summer, however the performances of Honda, Yasuhito Endo and Tulio Tanaka has given them a real chance to make the quarter-finals, but they will have to be at their strongest to get past the physical nature of Paraguay.
Another bonus for manager Takeshi Okada is that he has managed to field the same team for every game so far after suffering no injuries or suspensions during the tournament.
Okada is likely to stick with the same formation and players, and will be boosted by the news that centre-back Tanaka should be fit to play after recovering from a back injury despite training on his own since the 3-1 win over Denmark.
Paraguay will be without Victor Ceceres who is suspended following two bookings in the group stage with Carlos Bonet likely to deputise.
Antolin Alcaraz missed their encounter with the All Whites with a minor injury but should return in time for Tuesday's game and could start for Martino's men.