Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz says his team's physical presence will help make the difference when they take on Japan in Tuesday's last-16 encounter in Pretoria as both seek to make their first ever quarter-final.
"I think it will be a very close encounter overall and in terms of possession, but I think our physical presence can make the difference," said the Manchester City forward, playing in his third FIFA World Cup™. "They are a very compact side and they break very quickly so we will have to be on the lookout but in general we are looking to our game," he told AFP at team headquarters in the southeastern city of Balgowan.
Japan saw off Denmark in their final group match with a fine pair of free-kicks from their man of the tournament Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo and now hope their fluid movement on the ball can edge out the Paraguayans and stop the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking sides from dominating the last eight.
"These kinds of games often get decided on dead ball situations and we shall have to be alert to that aspect of things. While I think we have a greater physical capacity than they do, we have to make sure they do not cause problems from dead balls," said Santa Cruz.
Japan had never won a FIFA World Cup game outside their own country prior to this event but have been going from strength to strength after beating Cameroon and the Danes, while the South Americans advertised their capabilities coming within a point of top spot after the gruelling Latin American qualifying programme. They drew with Italy, beat Slovakia and drew with New Zealand to reach the last 16 for the fourth time.