Paraguay out to seize their chance
© EFE

Paraguay may be one of the lesser lights in the South American footballing firmament - but they have designs on making a strong Copa America showing and plan to make their mark against Ecuador tomorrow.

Although Ecuador's neighbours Bolivia have shown that Andean nations can play by almost shocking Argentina in yesterday's curtain-raiser, Paraguay have experienced heads on board in the shape of striker Roque Santa Cruz and attacking partner Lucas Barrios.

Brazil, bidding for a third straight continental title, are favourites to top Group B. But second place is up for grabs and Santa Cruz intends to get off to a flier and ensure that the Paraguayans work up some momentum before facing A Seleção in Cordoba next Saturday.

"I have faith in this team and we want to make a strong pitch for the Copa. We can put teams under pressure and have strong attacking potential," insisted the 29-year-old, who spent part of last season on loan from Manchester City with former club Blackburn.

We want to make a strong pitch for the Copa. We can put teams under pressure and have strong attacking potential.
Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay striker

Santa Cruz is a Copa stalwart having made his tournament debut at 17 while he notched a treble against Colombia at the last edition in Venezuela in 2007. Paraguay, under Argentinian coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, see themselves as a dark horse bet though they have not won the event since 1979.

Winger Cristian Riveros says the team will respect Ecuador but at the same time he feels tha "they don't have the players they did in 2002 and 2006" when the Andeans reached the FIFA World Cup™ final stages.

Even so, Riveros notes that "they have players starring in very competitive leagues," such as Manchester United's Diego Valencia. "But we are ready to lay it all on the line and go a long way in this tournament," said Riveros.

Ecuador's Michael Arroyo insists that Paraguay will not have things their own way. "Paraguay are a tough team - but we have had them watched. And we know how to take them on," said the midfielder, who plays with San Luis in Mexico.

Ecuador have managed only two fourth places in their previous best Copa showings, in 1959 and 1993, both times playing at home. They are one of only three South American sides not to have won the tournament, the others being Chile and Venezuela.

As well as Brazil, Venezuela complete the Group B line-up.