Cristaldo: We've come for the title
© AFP

Paraguay's progress so far at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 could not have been smoother. Having collected four points from two games, the South Americans are already assured of a place in the last 16 before they even take on Trinidad and Tobago in their final match in Group A.

And in seeing off the tournament hosts 2-1 on Monday, Adrian Coria's side have shown the rest of the world that their second place at the recent CONMEBOL U-20 Championship owed very little to chance. Tipped before the tournament by some pundits as possible contenders for the world crown, the young Guaraníes have done justice to those expectations.

Against the Egyptians, not even the fervent home support at the Cairo International Stadium nor the red card shown to defender Ronald Huth just before the break could knock the confident Paraguayans off their stride. A man down, La Albirroja dug deep to conjure up a winner in the final minute of stoppage time and thus ensure their place in the knockout stages.

"We have reached our first objective already, which is really nice," midfielder Gustavo Cristaldo tells FIFA.com. "The tournament has only just started though, and we haven't won anything yet. Our goal now is to go on and win the group."

To achieve that objective they will most likely have to pick up three points against bottom-placed Trinidad and Tobago. And though the Caribbean side have lost both their games to date, Cristaldo is refusing to underestimate them.

The tournament has only just started though, and we haven't won anything yet. Our goal now is to go on and win the group.
Gustavo Cristaldo

"It won't be easy. We will need to keep our concentration and try to disrupt their game as much as possible. The Trinidadians are very strong physically and tactically but they sometimes lack discipline at the back. We'll be taking all those factors into consideration and trying to make the most of the chances that come our way."

Paraguay's hopes against the islanders rest to a large extent on the attacking prowess of their No10, not that the modest Cristaldo sees himself as a pivotal member of the team.

"I'm not really an old-style playmaker," he explains. "I'm more of a left-sided midfielder. My role is to help out in attack and in defence, though the coach also gives me a little freedom to roam where I want, which means I can pop up in the middle and try to create a few chances for myself."

The young Libertad prodigy showcased his versatility and work rate in the dramatic defeat of Egypt. As well as winning back possession time and again in his own half, Cristaldo also instigated many of his team's attacks, though when asked about the contribution he makes to the side, he chooses instead to emphasise Paraguay's collective qualities. "Our team spirit and our effectiveness at dead-ball situations are our main assets. We attack as a unit and we defend as one too."

As for the next round and the identity of their opponents there, the hard-working midfielder is reluctant to name names just yet. "We're not thinking about that at the moment because the group phase isn't over. And in any case, if you want to win a tournament of this stature, you have to be able to beat everyone."

When asked to reveal his side's ambitions in Egypt, he proves a little more forthcoming. "We've come here to win the title but we're just taking each game as it comes. That's the best way to handle a competition like this."

A big admirer of Zinedine Zidane and Paraguay midfielder Cristian Riveros, the 20-year-old also has some very definite ideas with regard to what the future might hold for him.

"To start with, I'd like to help my team go as far as possible in the World Cup here. If we can put together a good tournament, that will no doubt open a few doors for me. My biggest dream, though, would be to pull on the national team shirt one day."

Judging by the quality of his performances in the land of the Pharaohs, that dream could well become a reality sooner rather than later.