Paraguay outclass Slovakia in Group F (Lead)
Bloemfontein, June 20 (DPA) Paraguay outclassed Slovakia 2-0 Sunday to score their first victory in the 2010 football World Cup and boosted their chances of reaching the knock-out stage.
Man of the Match Enrique Vera opened the scoring in the first half and Cristian Riveros settled the match four minutes from time in front of a crowd of 26,600 at Bloemfontein’s Free State Stadium.
The victory lifted the South Americans to the top of Group F, ahead of Thursday afternoon’s other game in the group between New Zealand and defending champions Italy.
Paraguay dominated possession in the early stages, with Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz a constant threat to a nervous Slovak defence, marshalled by Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel.
Santa Cruz tested Jan Mucha in the third minute with a strong right-foot shot from the edge of the area, which the Slovakia keeper did well to turn around the post.
Mucha was in action again 16 minutes later, when he held a shot hammered in by midfielder Riveros from just outside the box.
Paraguay were rewarded for their efforts in the 27th minute, with a well-taken goal orchestrated by Lucas Barrios: The Borussia Dortmund midfielder slipped the ball through the legs of a Slovak player to Enrique Vera, who shrugged off two defenders to hit a right-foot shot into the net.
Slovakia, who face a tough final match in Group F with Italy, were just a shadow of the side that led for most of their opening game against New Zealand five days earlier.
Playing only their second game in a World Cup as an independent nation, Slovakia wasted a string of passes and had only one shot at goal in the first half, compared to eight for the South Americans.
For Paraguay, coached by Argentina’s Gerardo Martinez, Barrios linked up well with his Dortmund team-mate Nelson Valdez and Santa Cruz to cause no end of problems for the Slovak defence.
Napoli striker Marek Hamsik had an opportunity to open the scoring for Slovakia in the 58th minute, but referee Eddy Maillet of the Seychelles pulled him up for offside.
Paraguay continued to stroke the ball around, but appeared to lose some of their urgency in the second half as the Slovakia team remained ineffective in front of goal.
That changed in the 72nd minute, when Santa Cruz burst through the Slovak defence and passed square to Vera, whose downward header flashed narrowly wide of Mucha’s left post.
And Paraguay wrapped thing up in the 86th minute when Riveros latched on to a cross to slam the ball home from close range.
Slovakia’s best chance came in added time when forward Robert Vittek hit a distance shot narrowly over the bar.
Paraguay’s victory was the seventh for a team from Latin American in the 27 games played so far in the World Cup in South Africa.