As part of their preparations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, to be played between 21 June and 13 July, Paraguay travelled to Spain to take on fellow qualifiers La Roja. And though La Albirroja, who finished second in CONMEBOL qualifying, fell to a 3-1 friendly reverse, the defeat has by no means diminished their hopes of making a splash on their ninth appearance at the global competition.
Speaking after the match, Los Guaraníes’ supremo Victor Genes gave an interview to the EFE Agency, giving his views on his team’s form ahead of the showpiece on Turkish soil and the overall state of the Paraguayan game.
EFE: Do you think Paraguay are in with a chance of taking the world title?
Victor Genes: Like all the other teams, we know there's only one prize at stake, and that's being crowned world champions. We’ve got just as much right to dream as any of the other teams taking part, and we want to give the Paraguayan people something to celebrate.
Can Paraguay expect more respect from opponents, given both Brazil and Argentina failed to negotiate the South American U-20 Championship?
We performed really well in the South American Youth Championship. We scored more goals than anybody else, we qualified for the World Cup with two matches to spare, we played good football in our final game against Colombia [which the latter won 2-1 to clinch the title], and we believe in our players. The majority of them are already playing in our Primera Division, which is why I’ve come to Spain missing five players through club commitments. We’ve got a team capable of having a good World Cup.
How do you see Spain’s chances ahead of Turkey 2013?
Ever since Spain stopped being La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) and started to play football, I’ve really liked what they do. Spain have got a very good team with quality players like Suso and [Gerard] Deulofeu and they play very nice football, but we’d rather see ourselves as the favourites.
While Paraguay’s senior squad’s chances of reaching the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ now look slim, the U-20s came second in the South American Youth Championship. Has the time come for fresh blood at senior Albirroja level?
Just like in every country, new talents always emerge. At U-20 level we’re producing players that, in the long term, are going to move up into the full national squad. And that is, at the end of the day, the point of youth national set-ups. Alongside the experience they gain at top-level clubs, we’re here to ensure players have a good enough grounding before they go into the senior squad.
Do you envisage any of your squad making the leap soon?
Generally speaking, I’d suggest they need much more Primera Division experience first, though obviously there are always players who are exceptions to the rule.
Have you been following the progress of Spain-based Paraguayans, such as Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Valdez and Hernan Perez?
At the last World Cup, where I was an assistant coach to the senior squad, I worked with Roque Santa Cruz, who’s a brilliant person and a true professional. His CV speaks for itself and he continues to shine in the European game: he’s a role model in Paraguayan football. I also worked with Nelson Haedo Valdez and he’s playing at a very high level too.
Did you expect Valdez to get more games at Valencia?
You always want one of your countrymen to get more playing time, but I also genuinely thought he’d get more opportunities. However, when you’re on the outside looking in, you shouldn’t really be giving an opinion.
Will we be seeing more Paraguayan players in Spain shortly?
Let’s hope so. The European market is very appealing, as it’s always been, but the Spanish league is particularly strong – with both players and coaches performing well.