This week’s main report looks at one of the countries that has already qualified for the 2010 World Cup – Paraguay. The transcript of the report is below.
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Bigger than Japan but smaller than Spain, a population slightly larger than Denmark, but smaller than Hong Kong, and looking forward to their eighth appearance in the World Cup Finals, more than Portugal but fewer than Hungary – which country am I talking about?
South Americans, Paraguay, qualified for the 2010 World Cup on the 9th of September, just after England and Spain. They booked their tickets after being guaranteed a top four spot in the South America group and on the way beat Argentina and Brazil. This is also their fourth appearance in a row.
But what else can we say about football in Paraguay? Well, it starts with a Dutchman, William Paats, and the team he founded, Olimpia Football Club, now Club Olimpia. That was back in 1902, and four years later the Paraguayan Football League was founded, 13 years after the first league to be established in South America, the Argentine league.
The power base of football in Paraguay is in Ascuncion, with nine of the 12 top-flight teams playing here. Teams which play outside Ascunsion, like 2 (segundo) de Mayo and 3 (tercero) de Febrero, seem to be banished to the border areas with Brazil and Brazil and Argentina, respectively.
The most successful team in Paraguay is Olimpia followed by Cerro Porteno, “el club del pueblo” – the people’s club. Olimpia, as mentioned are the oldest club, but Cerros Porteno are the most popular.
Olimpia play in black and white stripes, have won the title a record 38 times, 10 more than Porteno, and are currently third in the Clausura season after 10 games.
Cerro Porteno, also from Asuncion have , play in blue and red stripes, representing two political parties that were rivals when the club was formed – the strip is a symbol of how all Paraguayans should unite in friendship. So far this season, they could do with some friendly results, as they are in the bottom half of the table.
When these two teams meet it is the biggest match of the season – Paraguay’s El Clásico.
But back to the national team. they are ranked 23rd in the world by FIFA, and will be hoping to repeat and perhaps better their run in 1998, where they got to the last 16 only to be defeated by France with the first ‘Golden Goal’ in world cup history.
Players to look out for include their experienced captain, who came out of retirement to join the side again, Denis Caniza; Roque Santa Cruz, playing in the premier League for Manchester City, although not a regular in the qualifying campaign so far, should have an impact along with his strike partner, Nelson Haedo Valdez.
All that remains is to congratulate Paraguay on their qualification.