After featuring at the first two FIFA U-20 World Cups in 1977 and 1979, Paraguay subsequently became a more sporadic presence at the global showpiece, taking part in just one edition in the 1980s and two in the 90s. They did participate three times following the turn of the century, however, and, after missing out on Colombia 2011, La Albirroja will make their ninth appearance at Turkey 2013. To date their best performance was at Argentina 2001, when they finished fourth after going down to the hosts in the semi-finals and then Egypt in the match for third place.
Paraguay’s first-round showing at the qualifying tournament was somewhat inconsistent, with Los Guaraníes needing to pull off a 5-1 thrashing of Bolivia in their last Group A game to qualifying for the final phase in third spot - at the expense of hosts Argentina. La Albirroja came into their own in the final phase, Victor Genes’ charges finding their best form and clinching a place at Turkey 2013 two matches from the end. Paraguay even led the standings going into their last game, only for a 2-1 defeat by Colombia to deny them a first title at this level since 1971. Yet despite being pipped to the crown by Los Cafeteros, a balanced squad and proven attacking prowess mean Paraguay should pose a considerable threat on Turkish soil.
“Our hard work has borne fruit: we’re now one of the top-two sides in South America and we qualified for the World Cup with something to spare,” said coach Genes. “It’s true we were disappointed not to finish as champions, but we’ve put that behind us now. We’re now focusing all our energies on preparing for this World Cup. We’ve got everything we need to go over there with high hopes.”
|15||Robert PIRIS DA MOTTA|