2010 World Cup: Ireland 2-1 Paraguay Back to the Drawing Board For La Albirroja
Paraguay's World Cup plans took a severe knock after the South American side were easily beaten 2-1 by Ireland in Dublin.
Giovani Trappatoni's side tore into the World Cup Group F team right from the start, pressurising them as high up the pitch as possible. This simple tactic created havoc in the Paraguayan defence as their players panicked at every opportunity.
Ireland's early work paid off as Arsenal target Kevin Doyle nodded home in the seventh minute, after Roque Santa Cruz failed to clear Damien Duff's free-kick.
The Manchester City striker's inadvertent clearance cannoned off his own crossbar to leave Doyle with the easiest of chances. The early, easily conceded goal shook Gerado Martino's team's confidence, and the Argentinian was often a frantic figure in the technical area as he barked out orders.
Defense is one of the Albirroja's strongest points—only Brazil conceded fewer goals in the South America qualification campaign. However, Trappatoni had obviously picked it out as a weak point with Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane harrying their defenders every chance they were given.
The fact that Paraguay's entire game plan is now based on defense rather than attack, caused them many problems tonight, and Kieran Westwood in the Irish goal saw very little action in the first half.
Martino's side obviously miss the influential Salvador Cabanas, who is still recovering from a gun shot to the head in January. Without the most impressive player in South American qualifying, they look blunt in attack.
La Arribarroja enjoyed plenty of possession in midfield with typical neat, intricate passing of a South American side, but they lacked a cutting edge up front. At times, it was all too easy for the Irish defense to snuff out their infrequent attacking forays.
Liam Lawrence added a second score with a fine shot to the far post from an acute angle. He was set up by some good work from Doyle, whose cushioned header sent the Stoke man free.
At 2-0 up, the game was as good as over, and Paraguay had yet to have a shot on target.
Martino had stern words for his team at halftime—and their performance improved in the second half—but Ireland were always in control.
Ireland went close on numerous occasions through Robbie Keane, Duff, and Lawrence again, and should really have had a penalty when Santa Cruz took Lawrence down in the box with a clumsy challenge. But alas, the referee waved play on.
Eventually, Paraguay found a way into the game when Barrios did his World Cup chances of selection no harm by firing home past Westwood, after beating Whelan and St. Ledger in the space of a few yards.
It proved to be no more than a consolation goal for the South Americans as the game fizzled out, following numerous substitutions by both sides.
Results are not of the greatest importance when heading into a World Cup, but the manner of the performance certainly is. Paraguay struggled against the western European-style employed by Ireland and found the going very difficult.
La Arribarroja have deep problems down both flanks as both Duff and Lawrence enjoyed huge space to attack into, and were rarely marked by Vera or Riveros.
They have a midfield that is good on the ball, but who comes across as being lightweight.
Their problems are being compounded by the seniority of Roque Santa Cruz, who frequently drops deep to take the ball off his teammates. The end result being the centre forward starting the attack in central midfield, leaving two wide players up front.
Although the game was only a friendly, and one would figure that Paraguay have their minds elsewhere, there was enough on show to suggest that they may struggle in the physically imposing Group F where Italy, New Zealand, and Slovakia lie in wait.
Italy will have no fears on this showing, while New Zealand will be very optimistic that their long ball game being enough to exploit Paraguay's defense. Slovakia will be another tough nut to crack in this group that offers the widest variety of opposing styles.
Gerado Martino will have learned very little from this friendly.
Ireland not only beat his team easily, but they also do not represent any of the styles that Paraguay are likely to encounter in their group games—unless you count the Italian influence of Giovani Trappatoni.