Paraguay on brink of knockouts after Slovakia win

Bloemfontein: A powerful Paraguay side beat
Slovakia 2-0 here on Sunday to leave the South Americans on the
brink of qualification for the World Cup knockout phase.

A first-half goal from Enrique Vera and a second-half
strike from Cristian Riveros at a sun-drenched Free State
stadium gave Paraguay the crucial win that takes them to four
points with only Group F minnows New Zealand still to play.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino made his intentions clear
from the kick-off with three attackers in his starting XI,
including Manchester City forward Roque Santa Cruz, and his
team established a vice-like grip on the match.

Paraguay took the lead on 27 minutes when Vera bent the
ball around the goalkeeper with the outside of his right boot
after a pass from Barrios.

It followed incessant pressure on the Slovakian defence
in a first half in which the eastern Europeans could muster
just a single shot to the South Americans` eight.

The goal forced Slovakia to come out of their shell and
attack but Paraguay came close to doubling their lead when
Santa Cruz forced Slovak goalkeeper Jan Mucha to save with his

The South Americans kept their grip on the match in the
second half as Slovakia struggled to break down the South
Americans` defence.

Coach Vladimir Weiss threw on forward Filip Holosko for
Stanislav Sestak as the Slovaks desperately looked for an
equaliser but they could not hold onto possession long enough
to pose a goal threat.

Vera almost headed Paraguay into a two-goal lead after a
cross from Santa Cruz but his effort flew narrowly wide.

Substitute Aureliano Torres, on for Nelson Valdez, then
drove over as the South Americans` continued to look the more
likely scorers.

In a last throw of the dice Weiss sent on midfielder
Miroslav Stoch for defender Kornel Salata but Slovakia failed
to threaten and as the clock ticked down Riveros gave Paraguay
the two-goal margin their play richly deserved.

The World Cup hopes of Slovakia, heartbroken after
conceding a stoppage-time equaliser to New Zealand in their
opener, now hang by a thread with defending world champions
Italy still to play.

Italy, who drew 1-1 with Paraguay in their opener, were
due to play New Zealand later today in Nelspruit.

Bureau Report


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