Having both played out 1-1 draws in their opening games at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Group F rivals Slovakia and Paraguay meet for the very first time on Sunday in a game that will have a major bearing on their futures in the competition.
Both sides overcame some formidable opponents en route to the finals and will not be short of confidence going into this potentially decisive match. Moreover, each will know they would take a major stride towards the Round of 16 with victory here. A fast, technically accomplished Slovakia side came agonisingly close to kicking off their debut campaign with a win, leading New Zealand 1-0 entering injury time only for the Kiwis to grab a dramatic late equaliser. Their ability to put that disappointment behind them will be crucial to their chances of success against La Albirroja. As they showed against reigning world champions Italy in their first fixture, the battle-hardened South Americans will be no pushovers and will be looking to play the game at their own measured pace, bringing their considerable defensive and attacking strengths into play.
Much will hinge on the two playmakers. The 22-year-old Hamsik is coming on fast in the ultra-competitive environment of Serie A and has already proved he can direct operations for his country with aplomb, using his vision to bring his talented team-mates into play. The dynamic Riveros has a similarly crucial function to fulfil for Paraguay, drawing on his seemingly limitless reserves of energy to carry out vital defensive duties and also get forward to support the strikers.
3 – The number of positions that separate the two sides in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, adding weight to the coaches' predictions of a tight game. Paraguay lie 31st on 820 points, while Slovakia are 34th on 777 points.
What they say
"We're a little calmer now. The opening game was a very special moment and that's maybe why we were a little nervous. But this Sunday will be different. Hopefully we'll be able to play our best football and celebrate at the end," Marek Cech, Slovakia defender.
"They've got some quick players who are comfortable on the ball and know what they're doing. We need to be watchful and we need to concentrate right from the kick-off and not give the Slovakia strikers the chance to show their pace," Claudio Morel, Paraguay defender.
Voice of the fans
"It's going to be a very interesting match. I always say there are no easy games and the players will have to go and give their all on the pitch," CLAUDIAPAR, FIFA.com user.
Have your say
Which of these two sides has the best chance of reaching the last 16?