To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.Now for the last team in the Group of Leisure.
ParaguayGroup F THE BASICS
La Albirroja (The White-Red)
White, Red (Surprise)
•How They Got Here:
Finished third in South American qualifying, just behind Brazil and Chile
•World Cup Pedigree:
8 World Cups ('30, '34, '50, '58, '86, '98, '02, '06), reached the second round three timesTHE PLOT
Can one of the most surprising South American teams overcome the loss of their best player to qualify for the knockout stage? Well, the easiest group in the Cup (BY FAR) should be a huge help.THE DIRECTOR
An Argentinean, known as "El Tata, " he was a star for Argentina's Newell's Old Boys and has had great success in Paraguay as a coach. Like the three teams not named Italy, he is a relatively green on the international level.LEADING MAN
Roque Santa Cruz
The Manchester City striker will be asked to do the majority of the goal scoring for Paraguay. He's scored 20 goals for the national side (he didn't have the same success with City, where he only scored three times) and that's twice as many goals as the next best on this team.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward, Colo Colo - Chile) is the likely successor for Salvador Cabanas (who was shot in the head last year and won't make the World Cup) and recently renounced his Argentina citizenship for his mother's country;Oscar Cardozo
(forward, Benfica) is tall, lanky (he's known as "Tacuara" -- a type of cane -- in Paraguay) and good in the air;Paulo da Silva
(defender, Sunderland) is La Albirroja's captain and warrior in the back;Justo Villar
(goalkeeper, Real Valladolid - Spain) won't be confused for legendary shot-stopper Jose Luis Chilavert, but he's a reliable 'keeper with good hands.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
The 23-year-old Atalanta winger will be the primary supply for the forwards (and it would be a huge help if he could put a goal or two in as well).THE LIKELY VILLAIN
. If he's not scoring, Paraguay doesn't go far.PRODUCTION NOTES
With strong wing play and only one international scoring threat, expect to see them lined up in a 4-5-1 that stresses organization in the back.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
Beverly Hills Cop II
Can a seemingly light-hearted leading man (Eddie Murphy/Santa Cruz) get serious to avenge/console a nation after the near-fatal shooting of a partner/teammate?TRAILER
DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
According to The Guardian, dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are blood donors.CRITICAL BLURBS
I'm really sort of sick of saying this, as I've said it a lot: This team will struggle to score. ... The team went through various stages during qualifying. At times they were awesome (beating Brazil 2-0 and thumping Ecuador 5-1) and at times they were dismal (losing 4-2 to Bolivia). ... With Italy in this group, it's almost a guarantee that the group winner might not crack 4 goals scored. Paraguay-Italy is almost assuredly a nil-nil tie. ... If they can get past Slovakia and into the second round, they could make some noise as they are very difficult to break down. ...Best-case scenario?
Reaching the second round and putting a scare into The Netherlands. ...Realistic prediction?
Reaching the second round and getting run out of South Africa by The Netherlands.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
The first goal the team scores will likely resemble a sports movie cliche: The players celebrating their fallen teammate, Cabanas.
Group A: South Africa
Group B: South Korea
Group C: Algeria
Group D: Serbia
Group E: Japan
Group F: New Zealand
North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Brazil
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook