Such has been his rise to footballing fame, it would seem that the sky is the limit for Paraguay’s sharpshooter, Oscar Rene Cardozo Marin. The rangy forward measures in at well over six feet, but he is as dangerous on the ground as he is in the air. Quick, skillful and able to lead the line or drop deep, this clinical finisher’s move to Benfica in July 2007 has seen him become one of Europe’s most feared marksmen.
Cardozo began his career in the modest surroundings of the 3 de Febrero club, in Ciudad del Este. But it was when the man affectionately named Tacuara (Bamboo Tree) moved to Nacional in 2005 that his career took off. He scored nine times in his first season and added a further 17 goals in 2006/7 at a rate of almost a goal a game. His spectacular strike rate caught the eye of Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, who took him to Rosario to take his place alongside their other Paraguayan stars, including national-team keeper Justo Villar.
Newell’s faith in Cardozo paid rich dividends as the Paraguayan scored 11 goals in 16 games in 2006, becoming Paraguayan Player of the Year in the process. The following season he notched ten more goals in the Argentine Clausura championship, and won the hearts of the fanatical Newell’s supporters by playing a key role in keeping the team in the top flight. Cardozo’s achievements abroad did not go unnoticed at home and he was called up to the Paraguay squad for the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela, getting his name on the scoresheet as La Albirroja beat the USA 3-1.
Sure enough, Europe came calling on the back of Cardozo’s performances in South America and in June 2007, Lisbon giants Benfica made Tacuara one of the most expensive players in Portuguese football history. Cardozo has found a home away from home in the Stadium of Light, revelling in the legendary passion of the Benfica faithful. Alongside his fellow South Americans Javier Saviola and Angel Di Maria, his goalscoring hardly missed a beat: his tally of 13 goals helped him finish second in the Portuguese scoring charts in 2007/8 behind FC Porto’s Lisandro Lopez. The following season, he repeated the feat with 17 goals, just three behind the Brazilian Nene.
The 2009/10 campaign has proved to be even more successful for Benfica. Their fluent, attacking style of play has won them admirers all over Europe and of course Tacuara has been the focal point, maintaining his impressive goalscoring record whilst developing his all-round game.
For the national team, he is now one of the first names on coach Gerardo Martino’s team sheet, and when it comes to South Africa 2010, Cardozo made no secret of his ambition in a recent interview with FIFA.com: “It’s incredible to think that we’re going to be playing alongside the best teams in the world. But I want to stay in the tournament for as long as possible. That’s every player’s dream.”