Paraguay v New Zealand preview
Draw will do for South Americans
By Mike Barton. Last Updated: June 24, 2010 11:07am
Paraguay go into their final game of Group F against New Zealand knowing just a draw is certain to see them through to the last 16.
Should they win, they will definitely top the group, where they are likely to face Denmark or Japan in the second round, but the All Whites have proved to be a sterner test than first thought after grabbing two 1-1 draws, including a stunning result against holders Italy that puts them in with a shout of qualifying for the next round.
The Paraguayans have certainly caught the eye, playing well in the first half against the Azzurri in their opening game of the tournament, however their defence appeared to wilt slightly as the game went on.
They made no such mistakes against Slovakia, winning comfortably thanks to goals from Enrique Vera and Christian Riveros, as well as seeing the return of Manchester City hitman Roque Santa Cruz to lead the attack.
The South Americans have a good record in the competition, having reached the last 16 of the competition on three of their last four appearances, and they will fancy their chances of a quarter-final place should they finish top of their group, an achievement that would be their furthest progression in their history.
Much to remember
New Zealand boss Ricki Herbert will long be remembered for his achievements at this tournament, even if his side are to bow out as expected at this stage. They came into the tournament not even expected to win a point, but heroics from the likes of Winston Reid, Shane Smeltz and talismanic captain Ryan Nelsen has seen them come away with much to remember.
A draw with the world champions and Slovakia still sees them locked on points with their illustrious rivals, and although Italy are expected to beat Slovakia to progress, anything but a win and a good result for the Kiwis could see arguably the biggest surprise in World Cup history.
It can be certain that the Kiwis will not go down without the fighting spirit that has seen players such as Smeltz, who once played for Halifax Town in England's lower leagues, battle it out against former World Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro and not come off second best.
Despite their comfortable position, Paraguay boss Gerardo Martino is expected to field the same side as the one that beat Slovakia.
Midfielder Jonathan Santana could return to the bench after recovering from his injury to give Martino's side a full list of options.
Despite appearing to be struggling for full fitness, Santa Cruz is expected to lead the attack alongside Barrios and Nelson Valdez.
New Zealand are also likely to be unchanged despite first choice goalkeeper Glen Moss returning from suspension.
The news will come as a welcome boost to Mark Paston, who has been rewarded for his outstanding performance against the Italians by keeping his place in goal.
Vice captain Tim Brown has recovered from a broken shoulder, but the 29-year-old midfielder is not likely to start for the All Whites, with Herbert admitting he was expected to be on the bench.