Albirroja arrive in SA

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pretoria - Fresh from their warm up friendlies across Europe, the Paraguay "Albirroja" soccer team arrived in the country on Thursday afternoon to take part in the first FIFA World Cup to be played on African soil.

"I would like to welcome Paraguay to South Africa for the World Cup. As one of the most consistent performers in the qualifiers I am sure they will make a big impact in this tournament," said Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan.

Paraguay's coach Gerardo Martino said having had an opportunity to be in South Africa before would help his team in knowing what to expect.

"We have been preparing well for this World Cup, I believe we will be in good condition for the first game of this tournament," he said.

The Coach said the team will during the next few days, prepare for the game against Italy which he said should be tough. "We are aware that this is going to be a difficult tournament for everyone, but we need to work hard and make sure we qualify for the next round".

Paraguay will open their account in Cape Town against Italy on 14 June. They will then travel to Mangaung/ Bloemfontein to play Slovakia on 20 June, ending their group matches against New Zealand in Polokwane on 24 June.

Having just put together their best ever qualification campaign, Paraguay are entitled to think big ahead of their fourth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup. Under the guidance of Martino, the current crop look to have what it takes to build on the progress made by their predecessors at France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002, where the Paraguayans reached the Round of 16 before being knocked out by France and Germany respectively.

Paraguay broke through the 30-point barrier for the first time since the current qualifying system came into being. Recording ten wins, three draws and five defeats, they collected 33 points in all to finish third behind the Chileans and Brazil. Martino's side confirmed their ticket to the finals in style with a 1-0 defeat of Argentina in Asuncion in September, with President Fernando Lugo declaring a national holiday to allow the nation to celebrate the achievement.

The key to the Paraguayans' impressive progress was their form at the imposing Estadio Defensores del Chaco, where they won seven games in all. On the road they lost just three times and picked up 12 points in total, a record that suggests they have the resources to cause problems for their opponents in the finals.