Portugal edge out Paraguay
© Foto-net

Portugal opened their Brazil 2008 campaign with a hard-fought win over Paraguay, edging the South Americans by the odd goal in five.

Once again, the crowd at Rio's Maracanazhino arena were treated to a thrilling encounter as these evenly-matched Group B rivals contested an intense and unpredictable match from the off. Paraguay, with confidence soaring after their 5-0 victory over USA, monopolised the early possession, but couldn't find a way through despite peppering Joao Bendito's goal with shots.

Portugal opted for a more direct approach, and it was one which quickly paid dividends in the shape of a slick opener, Pedro Costa rounding off a swift counter-attack. Paraguay, however, continued to press, and it was no more than they deserved when Jose Rotella restored parity, turning in from the left to score.

This merely proved a signal for intensity and often ferocity of the play to move up a notch, although it was a moment of genuine beauty that handed Portugal  their second goal. Ricardinho and Costa both showed superb skill to combine in the creation of the easiest imaginable chance for the grateful Arnaldo.

Yet Paraguay are nothing if not tenacious and they fought back once again, capitalising on a slip in the Europeans' defence to equalise for a second time through Rene Villalba. At this stage, with the clock ticking down, one suspected that the next goal could settle matters, and it was Arnaldo who provided the decisive moment of inspiration. With the Paraguay defence tiring, he ghosted inside from the right and drove the ball home left-footed to seal the points and spark jubilant scenes on the Portuguese bench.