Alongside goalkeeper Justo Villar and centre-half Paulo da Silva, holding midfielder Cristian Riveros forms the defensive backbone of Gerardo Martino’s line-up. In the gruelling South American Zone qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, these three were the only Paraguayan players to start 17 out of the 18 matches, playing a huge part in getting the South American nation to their fourth successive finals.
In fact, Riveros was only substituted once in the entire campaign, when he gave way to Edgar Barreto late in the second half of his country’s emphatic 3-0 win over Chile in front of 53,000 baying spectators in Santiago’s Estadio Nacional.
Such stamina speaks volumes for the consistency of this tough midfielder, who can always be relied upon to give everything he has for the shirt. “It is a great honour to play for your country. Priceless, in fact. And things are going well for me at the moment. The new coach has given me the opportunity to develop as a player, to play regularly and I have taken my chance,” he said.
Riveros plays a crucial role in front of the back-four, breaking up play and launching attacks from deep. He also has an eye for goal, and found the net three times in qualification.
This will be the midfielder’s second FIFA World Cup finals after two appearances, against England and Sweden, at Germany 2006. Even though his team lost both of those games, Riveros put in creditable performances on the left-hand side of the Albirroja midfield. This time around, he is hoping for better.
“We’re going to try to improve on last time. Paraguay has some great players who play at the top level all over the world. They are also good people to be around. We get on well and we have a real togetherness, which is mainly why we have done so well,” he explained. “To get to the knockout stage would be fantastic, but we really want to go as far as we can.”
The hard-working Riveros is no stranger to success on the domestic stage. After winning two Paraguayan championships with Libertad, in 2006 and 2007, he made the switch to Mexican outfit Cruz Azul, where he has become a real fan favourite.