Located in the heart of South America, the Republic of Paraguay is a bilingual country. Its native language, Guarani, continues to be spoken alongside Spanish – brought here by the conquistadores – making it a unique place in the world.
Very much present in music, literature and everyday life, Guarani is an essential part of Paraguayan culture.
With a surface area of 406,800 square kilometres and a population of nearly 7,200,000, Paraguay is bordered by Argentina to the south and west, Bolivia to the north, and Brazil to the east.
Its capital and most populous city is Asuncion, where around 523,000 live.
Home to many UNESCO-protected archaeological sites, Paraguay also boasts the world’s second-largest hydroelectric dam.
Many Paraguayan traditions date to the presence of Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. The numerous buildings and sculptures they left behind and which together make up the Hispano-Guarani baroque style are well worth a visit.
Football in Paraguay
It should come as no surprise that football is the most popular sport in Paraguay given that a number of historical texts speak of the Guarani people playing what they called manga ñembosarai, “a ball game with the foot”.
This game of skill involved controlling a rubber ball, made from the sap of the manga tree, and was played on Sundays in the squares of missionary towns.
The Paraguayan Football Association (APF) was founded in June 1906 and joined FIFA in 1925.
Nicknamed La Albirroja, the national team have won the Copa America twice, in 1953 and 1979, and have finished runners-up in the competition on six occasions.
Paraguay have appeared at the FIFA World Cup™ eight times, including the inaugural competition in Uruguay in 1930.
Their best performance to date came at South Africa 2010, where they were beaten in the quarter-finals by eventual champions Spain.
Paraguay’s U-23 side won silver at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004.
Paraguay is also a force in futsal, having taking part in six of the eight FIFA Futsal World Cup competitions held so far, the last four of them consecutively.
The country’s most popular club sides are Olimpia and Cerro Porteno. Nicknamed El Decano, Olimpia have won the Copa Libertadores three times and the Intercontinental Cup, the predecessor of the FIFA Club World Cup, on one occasion.
Beach soccer in Paraguay
The APF is hosting the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the very first time. Known as Los Pynandi ('The Barefooted Ones'), Paraguay’s national team are a major force on the South American beach soccer scene.
The APF were one of the first associations in the region to organise an official beach soccer competition, the Super Liga, which has been running since 2008 and in which around 540 players compete.
In 2019, the APF also introduced a 16-team women’s league, with approximately 260 players taking part.
At international level, Paraguay won gold in the inaugural Pan American Games beach soccer competition in 2012.
Los Pynandi qualified for the Beach Soccer World Cup for the first time in 2013, after beating Brazil in the semi-finals of the qualifying competition in Argentina. It was Brazil’s first ever defeat in a CONMEBOL beach soccer tournament.
The Paraguayans have appeared at every World Cup since. After going out in the group phase at Tahiti 2013 and Portugal 2015, they finished seventh at Bahamas 2017, their best performance to date.