Paraguay confident to make 2010 finals

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pretoria - The Paraguay government is confident that their national football team will make it to the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup next year, and be the possible victor.

This is according to the Paraguay Minister of Foreign Affairs Hector Lacognata Zaragoza, who met with Local Organising Committee boss, Dr Danny Jordaan on Monday.

During the meeting, he said he had come to South Africa under strict instruction from Paraguayan President Fernando Armindo Lugo Mendez.

"We had a very important assignment from my President - to see the progress on the stadium where the final will be played [Soccer City] because our national team is going to be there," Zaragoza said on Monday.

Zaragoza is leading a Paraguayan delegation to South Africa to assess preparations for the event and meet stakeholders in preparing the national team's visit next year.

Paraguay gained an automatic qualification for the World Cup on 9 October when they beat Argentina 1-0 and this is their fourth successive visit to the finals.

They were the second team from the South American Zone behind their traditional rivals, Brazil, and joined the rest of 19 teams who have already qualified.

Zaragoza said Paraguayans would be following their team religiously during next year's much-anticipated tournament.

"Of the millions of people who watch the tournament next year, six million of them will be in Paraguay. Everything in Paraguay stops when the national team is playing. Football is very important to the people and is played in every corner of the country," he said.

After meeting with Jordaan the delegation was briefed on South Africa's readiness for the World Cup, by the LOC's Chief of Competitions, Derek Blanckensee.

Included in the presentation were the current preparations being done in the coastal town of Mossel Bay in the Western Cape, where the Paraguayan team will be based throughout the tournament. The first stages of the practice pitch and changing facilities have begun.

Meanwhile, Jordaan said Paraguay was a welcome addition to the World Cup. He said the team performed extremely well during their qualification campaign.

"They are becoming one of the giants of South American football thanks to their results and we are sure they will enjoy a successful campaign in South Africa next year," Jordaan said.

Paraguay which is currently ranked 23rd in the world will make its eighth appearance at the World Cup finals in 2010.

Although they have never won the tournament they have enjoyed success at continental level winning the Copa America in 1953 and 1979 and have finished runners up in this tournament on five occasions