Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino is well prepared for the physical battle he expects New Zealand to present in Thursday's final FIFA World Cup Group F fixture.
The All Whites have earned creditable draws against Slovakia and Italy through sheer hard work allied to a sustained physical presence. Martino's side, who currently top the group and need only a point to progress to the last 16, may play more football but he knows that will be no guarantee come kick-off.
"The match is going to be more similar to the match with Slovakia," said Martino, who admitted more than six months ago he knew nothing about New Zealand or their players. "New Zealand have a different style to that of Italy but they also create other types of complications. We have a lot of respect for their physicality as they know how to exploit this. I can't imagine any coach who is not aware of this. I don't think it is going to be easy in any way."
Captain Justo Villar agreed that they had to be wary of the All Whites' physical and aerial threat. "A large part of their football is based on their robustness and they will probably try to capitalise on that," said the goalkeeper. "But we have our own strong points. We know the type of football we want to play and are playing better match after match. We will try to avoid any hiccups due to the physical strength of our opponents."
Martino's side have drawn plaudits for the way they have performed at this FIFA World Cup, which is an extension of their qualifying campaign when they finished five points ahead of Argentina, having beaten both the South American heavyweights of Brazil and Diego Maradona's side at home and earned a draw in Buenos Aires.
We know the type of football we want to play and are playing better match after match.
But the Paraguay boss said his players could not rest on their laurels as he felt there were improvements to be made, especially up front. "I think we are facing this game thinking that we have not really done much so far," he added. "This match will give us the opportunity to move on to the next stage.
"Nothing we have done so far will be useful unless we play a good match and win. My concern is not about scoring goals but creating goalscoring opportunities. We were able to score goals [against Slovakia, a 2-0 win] but we should have converted more and been more precise. We have not had much time to address this issue but we want to continue goalscoring opportunities."
The Latin American sides have all been the ones to catch the eye in South Africa and this did not surprise Martino. "I am very familiar with the these sides. I knew Argentina and Brazil would be on top form but the others are also on form here," he said. "The only thing I can say is that all these side have come here in tip-top shape and, in some cases, in better form than their opponents."