Two goals from Dante Lopez and Nelson Haedo Valdez saw Paraguay scrap their way to a resounding 2-0 win over Germany at the Al Nahyan stadium in Abu Dhabi in the last Group F match for both sides. The win sees Paraguay race to the top of the group – for the moment at least – with six points from three matches. Though the Paraguayans can be sure of at least a second-place finish and a spot in the second round, Germany are still in with a slim shout as a possible best-third place finisher with three points from three matches. It took over half of the first period before the sputtering, fractured affair produced a true chance on goal. It came the The Europeans’ way when Bayern Munich’s diminutive creator Piotr Trochowsky collected a ball from Matthias Lehmann – who plays for cross-town rivals 1860 Munich.
Turning brilliantly and racing toward his right, the “mighty mouse” fired a stunner from 26 yards that left Anthony Silva without even half a hope. Unfortunately for the gifted playmaker, his shot skipped just inches wide of the far post (24’).
Minutes later, the always dangerous red-and-white striped South Americans nearly broke the deadlock with a similar attempt. Nelson Haedo Valdez turned well some 25 yards from goal, unleashing a ferocious shot with his right foot. But like Trochowsy before him, the strike sailed agonisingly wide of the target (28’). And just two minutes on, the Paraguay striker was at it again, chesting the ball down inside the box and firing a snap volley on goal – but Alexander Walke was up to the task with a fine save (30’).
The match was hotting up, and when Patrick Milchraum hammered a rocket against the Paraguayan post from 25 yards, the Germans must have thought they were a goal to the good (32’).
But, much the Europeans’ chagrin, it was the Paraguayans that took the 1-0 lead into the half for the third consecutive time at these finals. Dante Lopez took advantage of a dreadful punch under pressure from German keeper Walke and nodded the ball up and over a forest of defenders and past the keeper, scrambling desperately to atone for his mistake (1-0, 39’).
The Germans came out looking to drag themselves back into the match, but once again they were stymied by the woodwork. Milchraum’s through ball into the box was met in blare by the left foot of Sebastian Kneissl. But the Chelsea man – who scored the third in Germany’s 3-1 win over the USA – was only able to fire against the crossbar (57’).
And straight away, coming back on the counter attack, Paraguay extended their lead. Dante Lopez broke free and sent Heado Valdez clean in one-on-one. Though Walke got a piece of it, the ball bobbled almost apologetically into the back of the net (2-0, 58’).
Try as Germany might, the Paraguayan defence looked disciplined as ever. Restricted primarily to long-distance efforts, Lehmann’s powerful strike from 30 yards looked to have Silva beaten, but soared over the bar (75’). Just minutes later, captain Benjamin Wingerter’s sizzler whistled just past the top corner (78’).
But in the end their efforts were not enough, shut out for the second time in three matches.
Paraguay coach Rolando Chilavert was over the moon with the result. “My team did absolutely what I wanted them to do,” he said. “We closed the Germans down, controlled the ball and played with discipline. This is a very important victory as it not only sees us into the second round, but to beat a team like Germany is always a big achievement.”
German coach Ulli Stieleke was not in the highest spirits after the match. “We continued to play poorly today,” the FIFA World Cup veteran told reporters. “It looked like we were sleepwalking out there, and as we had in our first two matches we conceded goals that were effectively gifts. We should receive an assist for their goals! We made it very easy for the Paraguayans to control the game, and we never played well.”