As they prepare for their fourth straight appearance at the FIFA World Cup™ finals, Paraguay can relax in the knowledge that the goalkeeping legacy bequeathed by the likes of Ever Hugo Almeida, Roberto Fernandez and Jose Luis Chilavert is in safe hands.
Aside from their traditional defensive strength and an increasing number of options in midfield and up front, the Paraguayans can also count on the experience and reliability of Justo Villar in goal. Thanks to his prominent role in La Albirroja’s last two FIFA World Cup qualification successes, the Real Valladolid custodian has become one of the leaders of the team.
After travelling to Korea/Japan 2002 as third-choice keeper and then having to go off after only seven minutes of Paraguay’s opening game at Germany 2006 against England, Villar now has the chance to show that he belongs on the big stage.
“It was tough, I could feel a lump in my throat,” he told FIFA.com in reference to that cruel injury against the English. “Now that I’ve got another shot at it, maybe I can make up for that. I hope to be there to help the team give a good account of themselves, and finally get that World Cup monkey off my back.”
Now 32, Villar began his professional career in 1996 with Sol de America, who were then coached by Almeida, one of the country’s finest glovemen of all time. Over the next five seasons Villar acquired a reputation for excellence and was snapped up by Libertad, where he won league titles in 2002 and 2003.
His performances had not gone unnoticed outside Paraguay. In 2004 he made the move to Argentina, signing for Newell’s Old Boys, one of the country’s biggest clubs. Conceding only 11 goals in 19 games in the 2004 Apertura, he made a significant contribution to their first title triumph in 12 seasons and quickly earned the undying adulation of the Lepra faithful.
After four years in Argentina he took another step forward in his career, joining Spanish first division side Real Valladolid, where he has combined spells on the sidelines with some excellent performances.
A dependable mainstay for his country in all that time, Villar played in all but one of Paraguay’s qualifying matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, conceding a mere 12 goals in the process.