SI Vault
Gabriele Marcotti
May 29, 2010
LOSING YOUR TOP GOAL SCORER IN THE MOST HORRIFYING AND SENSELESS WAY—GUNNED DOWN IN A MEXICO CITY BAR—IS THE KIND OF EVENT THAT CAN EITHER RIP A TEAM APART OR BRING it together. For Paraguay it has been the latter. Salvador Cabañas was shot in the head by an apparent hit man in the bathroom of a nightclub in late January, and part of the bullet remains lodged in his skull because doctors decided it was too dangerous to try to remove it. He was released from the hospital in early March and has begun a long rehabilitation process. It's very unlikely that he will join his teammates in South Africa, but he'll be with them in spirit.
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May 29, 2010


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The quality in Paraguay's midfield comes from Christian Riveros, who combines skill and energy like few other players in Latin America, pounding from one end of the pitch to the other and scoring the odd goal as well. The fourth spot will go to Jonathan Santana, a naturalized Paraguayan from Argentina, or Édgar Barreto, an attacking midfielder who can slot into either wing.


You have to feel for goalkeeper Justo Villar, Paraguay's captain. In 2002 he was kept out of the starting lineup by the aging Chilavert. Four years later he was injured just seven minutes into the World Cup opener against England and had to miss the rest of the tournament.

Villar wants to make this time count, and given that only Brazil's Júlio César conceded fewer goals in South American qualifying, he's going to be crucial to Paraguay's hopes. Somewhat undersized at just under six feet, he makes up for it with athleticism and a great sense of position.

The projected back four are veterans, all of whom are 30 or older but know Martino's system inside out. Julio César Cáceres leads a group that appears small (both central defenders are also a shade under six feet tall) but plays bigger than it looks.


Paraguay has a proclivity for grinding out wins and will be tough for any opponent. That doesn't mean it will advance, but if it does, its lack of a Plan B will show in the first knockout round.

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