Talented young front man Edgar Benitez is one of Paraguay’s most exciting prospects in years, and made the most of some notable absences to stake a compelling claim for a place at South Africa 2010 during the recent qualifying competition.
Known in the game as El Pájaro (The Bird) due to the speed at which he runs with the ball at his feet, Benitez made his club debut as a 17-year-old for Libertad in 2005, helping them win back-to-back league titles, albeit from the bench.
His first taste of regular first-team football came in 2008 when he was loaned out to Sol de America. The move paid off, with Benitez finishing top scorer in the 2008 Clausura with 14 goals. At the end of the year he signed for Mexico’s Pachuca, making a goalscoring debut against Tecos in January 2009. That marked the start of a superb campaign for Los Tuzos, where he quickly earned the adulation of the fans.
During all that time his progress was being monitored by national coach Gerardo Martino, who drafted him into the squad for the first time in October 2008, when he was still with Sol de America. He made his international debut against Peru in Asuncion, coming on for the injured Roque Santa Cruz, who had also identified him as the country’s rising star. Benitez opened his Albirroja account in a 1-1 draw away to Ecuador last April, scoring his side’s equaliser deep into injury time.