It was supposed to be a battle of two pretty equal sides. But on their way to South Africa, Paraguay comfortably defeated Brazil and Argentina; Slovakia was not going to worry them either. The Bloemfontein Group F game ended Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0.
Paraguay can be perfectly proud of their professorial performance on this Sunday’s sunny Bloem afternoon. Not only did they win clearly, they did so in a fashion that was so emphatic that their future opponents had better take note. Their manager, Gerardo Martino, decided it was time for Paraguay’s best player, Roque Santa Kruz to start the match, a decision that should pay back for the next matches; Kruz’s good form is crucial to Paraguay’s plans.
Slovakia are not a team that could be dismissed as second-rate. On their way to South Africa, they defeated the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland and Northern Ireland. But what they couldn’t expect was the severity of the footballing lesson handed to them by the South Americans. The Slovaks simply couldn’t connect with the ball, no matter what they tried. They were so comprehensively kept out of the match that their first successful shot at the goal arrived in the 92nd minute, when the game had already been taken away from them and the Paraguayans were already thinking about their showers.
Paraguay are now looking forward to their match against New Zealand, but it’s very much a given they will grace the World Cup’s second round.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Slovakia: Jan Mucha, Radoslav Zabavnik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Marek Cech, Vladimir Weiss, Zdeno Strba, Marek Hamsik, Miroslav Stoch, Robert Vittek, Stanislav Sestak
Paraguay: Justo Villar, Carlos Bonet, Paulo Cesar Da Silva, Antolin Alcaraz, Claudio Morel Rodriguez, Enrique Daniel Vera, Victor Javier Caceres, Cristian Miguel Riveros, Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Antonio Haedo Valdez, Lucas Ramon Barrios
Man of the match
Enrique Daniel Vera
The first 18 minutes passes in a relatively calm space, but it is pretty obvious Paraguay are the stronger team and much better at controlling the ball.
- 19th First proper shot at goal by Paraguay is easily saved by the Slovak keeper, Mucha. The move, however, was quick and smooth. Maybe next time the shot will be more challenging.
Paraguay, quite simply, appear to be a much better team. Remember, they defeated Brazil and Argentina on their way to qualifying.
- 23rd Lucas’s shot flies past, but still dangerously close, to Mucha’s cross-bar.
- 25th Valdez shoots a low, powerful shot, but it flies a good 5m past Mucha’s right post.
- 27th Vera scores! He receives the ball just as he enters the penalty box and scores from 16m by burying the ball wide into Mucha’s right corner. The Slovak keeper didn’t stand much chance.
Slovakia are having genuine problems getting back into the game. They are outsmarted by Paraguay, who are still attacking.
- 37th Slovaks are having their first corner kick, but the header flies harmlessly past Villar’s goal.
- 39th Roques Santa Kruz’s shot is denied by Mucha’s extended leg. Pity that Kruz had such a slow season at Manchester City; he is a formidable scorer.
- 42nd Durica gets the first yellow card of the match.
End of the first half. Slovakia have a big problem on their hands.
Slovakia appear to be sending Sestak deeper into Paraguay’s territory. They appear more poised, but Paraguay still look much stronger.
- 55th And yet, nothing is happening. This is a boring game in the second half.
- 62nd A good, probing run by Durica ends in corner. Paraguay’s domination is so complete that even the good run by Slovak players is news.
- 72nd Great move by Santa Cruz and Vera end up in his header missing Mucha’s post by millimetres.
- 77th Torres’ sharp shot flies just above Mucha’s cross-bar.
- 85th Would someone please explain to Slovakia that 0:1 is NOT good?
- 87th Paraguay score again! Riveros’ powerful shot gives Mucha no chance! It was a rocket!
Paraguay’s now well and truly on their way to the next round. They surely deserve it. Slovakia are now just counting down the seconds before the end.
- 92nd Vitek’s powerful shot is the first one on target for the entire game! Villar is up to the task.
By Branko Brkic
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