Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz believes the rest of the world have even more to fear from South American sides now they have added a work ethic and resilience to their game. The continent, led by five-time FIFA World Cup™ winners Brazil and double champions Argentina, is renowned for attacking, free-flowing football.
The current Brazil team may be a pale imitation of the great sides of the 1970s and early 1980s but they have an efficiency which ensures they get results. Dunga's side have been joined in the knockout stage by Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay, and with Mexico also going through there is a heavy Latin American influence in the last 16.
Santa Cruz thinks South American sides have added substance to their style and that will be key as the competition reaches sudden death. "It is amazing Italy are out of the World Cup," said the Manchester City striker. "They are such an historic country for football - I can't imagine how their supporters will feel. If Italy had got through the first round they would probably still have been one of the favourites to win it.
"For every big country it is very tough to get through the first round - England showed that," he added. "But the likes of Brazil and Argentina are doing fantastically well, and you can tell that they are the favourites to win it.
"South American sides have always been very talented but the work a lot of the coaches are putting in is making them stronger in terms of discipline," he continued. "Because of the type of players Brazil and Argentina have they are expected to play more attacking football. If you check their squads you will see they have maybe 10 players who can play offensively against every big team in the world. But the players are starting to work harder. Normally you expect them to do a lot of tricks and play nice football but they fight a lot as well and are very disciplined. I think those factors make them better sides."
Paraguay qualified for the knockout phase for the third time in their last four FIFA World Cup appearances but, for the first time, they topped their group. They have never gone beyond the last 16 but have their best chance yet when they face Japan on Tuesday in Pretoria. And, despite failing to break down a resilient New Zealand side yesterday, Santa Cruz feels the team have a real chance of achieving something in South Africa.
"For us it is a great thing to be first in the group - the first at the World Cup," added the 28-year-old. "It is very hard to say about our chances. We want to stay low profile and just keep going from round to round. Our main goal is probably to get to the quarter-finals, which we would consider a successful World Cup.
"We had chances to score against New Zealand but the problem would come if the chances were not there. We just need to capitalise and score those goals because in the knockout stages you are not allowed to miss those kind of chances so we need to concentrate and be focused on our game. The chances are always going to come because of the players we have in the team."