Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino admitted Brazil and Argentina remain the powerhouses among South America's record four teams in the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals, but he is not counting his side out yet either.
Paraguay advanced to the last eight of the FIFA World Cup on Tuesday by beating Japan 5-3 on penalties after playing to a goalless draw after extra time, a victory that gave South American sides a chance to sweep the semi-final spots.
"Argentina still have a great chance, Brazil as always in the World Cup are getting better and we're also there trying to do things right," Martino said. "I'm not saying we're trying to write a new page in the book of history. We're just trying to play well."
Martino's team have already made history, putting Paraguay in the last eight at a FIFA World Cup for the first time after three prior round-of-16 losses. Now he has players thinking about the chances of capturing the crown.
"We're all going to have to play very well again if we want to advance," said Paraguay goalkeeper and captain Justo Villar. "If we keep working hard, all things are possible."
Paraguay's best-ever showing comes after a strong performance in South American qualifying last year, a crucible for FIFA World Cup competition. "For South America, it shows how important the matches are to qualify for the World Cup," Paraguay and Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz said.
Martino echoed that sentiment. "I believe the South American teams arrived well prepared," he said. "They have excellent individual players and they have been performing to their maximum."
The only side to eliminate a South American team was another South American team, when Brazil ousted Chile in the round of 16. "If I hadn't seen Brazil last night I would've said Argentina are the favourites," Martino said. "I deeply regret that Chile are now eliminated because they had been playing excellent football. So many things go through the minds of the players on the pitch. It's not just physical aspects that matter. It's also mental and emotional."
Paraguay's defence has surrendered only one goal in four matches, but scoring has been at a premium as well. "Compared to other teams, we're more defensively oriented but we also have attacking options," Martino said. "We have good players up front but we haven't proved that so far, as we haven't scored many goals."