Paraguay had never even reached the last four in all their previous appearances in CONMEBOL qualifying for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, so their runners-up finish in February’s tournament means Tahiti 2013 will be their very first trip to the global showpiece. La Albirroja have been hinting at causing a stir since November 2012, when they won beach soccer gold at the first edition of the multi-sport Bolivarian Beach Games. That success included a win over El Salvador, who finished fourth at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011.
The team coached by Cayo Villalba endured a slow start to CONMEBOL qualifying in Argentina, and only secured their ticket to the semi-finals thanks to a 9-6 win over Chile in their final group match – a result that snatched second place from La Roja’s grasp. Arguably Paraguay’s most important beach soccer victory of all time followed in the last four, when they sank Brazil 1-0 on penalties after a 6-6 draw to earn a first ever berth at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Not even the subsequent 6-2 defeat by the host nation in the final could take the shine off La Albirroja’s historic achievement.
Their performances in South American qualifying underlined the healthy array of attacking variants at Paraguay’s disposal. Villalba’s charges were the competition’s joint second-highest scorers with 24 goals, behind only Brazil and level with champions Argentina, though they will need to work on their defensive failings prior to Tahiti 2013. And, having never before appeared at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, will Los Guaraníes be made to pay for their lack of experience?