Paraguay v Bolivia: La Albirroja out to arrest slump as they dream big at Copa America

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

It has been a long time since Paraguay last conquered South American football, and they start their 2021 Copa America campaign looking to arrest a slump against Bolivia.

Paraguay are two-time winners of the Copa America, though not since 1979 have La Albirroja hoisted the trophy aloft.

Since then, their best performance has been reaching the 2011 final, which they lost against Uruguay. Paraguay did make it to the 2019 quarter-final, where they were eliminated by eventual champions Brazil on penalties.

There are familiar faces in the squad – captain Gustavo Gomez, Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron and Angel Romero.

Juan Carlos Osorio oversaw Paraguay's run to the last eight two years ago, but former Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss Eduardo Berizzo is now at the helm as the country dreams big.

But Berizzo finds himself under pressure amid a four-game winless streak following their 2-0 defeat to Brazil in World Cup qualifying prior to the Copa America – the nation's first loss at home to the Selecao since 1985.

"The Copa America will serve to consolidate the concept and the idea," Paraguayan Football Association (APF) vice-president Javier Diaz de Vivar told Radio Monumental 1080 AM following the Brazil loss. "We see a growing Paraguay, we need to be more forceful and perhaps be a little more vertical, but we are doing well, working, we chat every day with Eduardo Berizzo."

Bolivia will be hoping the delayed Copa will help the team – the 1963 champions have not progressed from the group stage since 2015.

An additional advantage could be that most of Bolivia's squad play in the domestic league, which has been suspended due to the COVID-19 situation.

With more time to prepare together, Marcelo Martins and Bolivia – who took part in the 2015 quarter-finals, their first knockout-round appearance since finishing runners-up in 1997 – are looking beyond the group phase.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Paraguay – Julio Enciso

The youngest player at the Copa America, Enciso has already played 24 top-flight matches for Libertad and was briefly the youngest player to score in the Copa Libertadores this century with his goal against Jorge Wilstermann last year when still 16. A good dribbler and not shy to take a shot, Enciso has been used almost everywhere across the front for Libertad and could be an interesting wildcard option for Paraguay.

Bolivia – Marcelo Martins

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. Martins scored in the previous meeting between Paraguay and Bolivia – a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw in November.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Paraguay are winless in their last 11 games in Copa America (D6 L5), their longest winless run in the competition.

- Bolivia scored in each of their last two games in Copa America: Marcelo Martins and Leonel Justiniano found the net in their defeats against Peru and Venezuela respectively in 2019.

- This is the sixth consecutive Copa America with Paraguay managed by a Argentinian boss, with Gerardo Martino (2007 and 2011), Ramon Díaz (2015 and 2016) and Eduardo Berizzo (2019 and 2021) each taking charge for multiple tournaments.

- Bolivia boss Cesar Farías will manage his second Copa America. In his previous edition, he oversaw an historic fourth-place finish for Venezuela in 2011.

Related items

  • Tuchel expresses admiration for Barca outcast Dembele Tuchel expresses admiration for Barca outcast Dembele

    Thomas Tuchel has spoken of his admiration for Ousmane Dembele amid reports the Barcelona outcast could be a transfer target for Chelsea.

    Dembele looks to be on his way out of Barca due to a contract stand-off that has turned sour.

    The France winger warned the Catalan giants that he would not be "giving in to any blackmail" after Barca director Mateu Alemany ordered him to find a new club "immediately".

    Dembele is only under contract with the Blaugrana until the end of the season and Alemany declared he expects the 24-year-old to move on before the transfer window closes at the of this month as "we want to have players committed to the project."

    Tuchel saw Dembele's talent first-hand when he played under the Blues boss at Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season before the former Rennes man joined Barca for an initial fee of €105million.

     

    The Barca contract rebel's chances created per game average of 2.36 this season is better than any of the Chelsea squad who can play in the same position, while his dribbles completed (6.69) also compares favourably.

    Dembele has also had more shots per game (4.46) and made more crosses from open play (6.69) than the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.

    And while Tuchel stopped short of declaring his interest in his former player, the Chelsea head coach is well aware of what he is capable of.

    "He is a very good player when he is at his top level," Tuchel said. "I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund.

    "It was only one year; it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave. From there we are not in closest contact.

    "We met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties."

    Chelsea face a big Premier League derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

  • Ronaldo neck injury leaves Man Utd with striker shortage for West Ham clash Ronaldo neck injury leaves Man Utd with striker shortage for West Ham clash

    Cristiano Ronaldo has emerged as an injury doubt for the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham on Saturday.

    The Portugal star played 71 minutes of the 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday before being substituted - a decision with which he was clearly annoyed.

    Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted he had no problem with the player becoming frustrated at going off and that it would not affect his chances of facing the Hammers at Old Trafford.

    However, Rangnick later confirmed Ronaldo suffered a neck injury during the victory over Brentford that could keep him out of the game.

    "Cristiano is a question mark because he has a problem with his neck," he said to MUTV on Friday.

    "He received treatment yesterday [Thursday] for two, three hours and we will have to wait to see how he feels today."

    Edinson Cavani missed the match at Brentford Community Stadium and he too is facing a race to be fit for the visit of David Moyes' men.

    "Edi hasn't been training with the team yet and will hopefully resume training today and then we'll take the final decision after the training session, [around] if he will be available for the game," Rangnick said.

    Losing Ronaldo and Cavani presents United with a possible striker shortage given Anthony Martial is attempting to secure a move away from the club.

    Rangnick left Martial out of the 2-2 draw at Aston Villa, saying the France international had told him he did not want to be involved – a claim Martial later disputed.

    Jesse Lingard will be available to face the club for whom he excelled on loan last season, while Jadon Sancho, who missed the Brentford match due to a family funeral, could be involved.

    "We need to see where Jadon stands," said Rangnick. "He didn't train yesterday. As you know, he attended a funeral on Wednesday and didn't want to train yesterday as he is still affected by that. We will have to see.

    "I will see him for training today and speak with him after the training session, to see if he is in the state of mind, and also his energy [is there], so he can be available for tomorrow."

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka will also be missing again with illness, while Victor Lindelof will sit out the game after a burglary of his family home, but midfielder Scott McTominay hopes to be involved after battling a back problem.

  • Australian Open: 'Nights like this mean everything' – Nadal Australian Open: 'Nights like this mean everything' – Nadal

    Australian Open favourite Rafael Nadal reflected on a "very special week" after he progressed to the fourth round in Melbourne for the 15th time in his career.

    Nadal cruised into a two-set lead against Karen Khachanov on Friday, though the Spaniard had to overcome a third-set fightback to win 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1.

    The 35-year-old - who triumphed at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier in January - has won all six of the matches he has played so far in 2022.

    Nadal has endured a difficult time with injuries in recent seasons but, with Novak Djokovic out of the picture after his deportation from Australia this week, he has a record 21st grand slam triumph firmly in his sights.

    "It is a very special week for me, coming back," said Nadal, who was out of action from August until December, when he played in an exhibition event in Dubai.

    "Every single time I am able to play here is very special. I played against a great player and a good friend on Tour. It was my best match since I have come back without a doubt.

    "I have gone through some very tough times over the past year, but nights like tonight mean everything.

    "I keep fighting and going every day. I put a lot of effort in to be back with where I am today, so I am happy."

    Nadal has won all eight matches against Russian Khachanov, and he will face Adrian Mannarino, whose four-set win over Aslan Karatsev concluded late into the Melbourne night.

    He may only have won the Australian Open on one occasion, in 2009, but only Roger Federer (18) has reached the fourth round in Melbourne on more occasions than Nadal.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.