Paraguay plan to send Sweden packing
Published: 14 Jun 2006 18:09 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Jun 2006 18:09 GMT+02:00
Having got off on the wrong foot against England thanks to skipper Carlos Gamarra nodding a David Beckham freekick into his own net, Paraguay have vowed to make Sweden sweat in Thursday's Group B clash in Berlin.
Both sides have to push aside early disappointment and get their scoring boots on with the Swedes having fired blanks against Trinidad and Tobago.
Seeking to make it to the last 16 for the third straight time the Paraguayans say their English misfortune is water under the bridge.
"The England match is behind us now and we can't do anything to change the outcome. We controlled much of the game and showed what we are capable of," said Paraguayan Football Association head Oscar Harrison.
Defender Julio Caceres, who plays his club football with River Plate, said that "it all depends on us to go out there and pick up the win that we need.
"But Sweden are a good side," he noted.
Fellow defender Denis Caniza said the South Americans, who got out of the group four years ago before going down narrowly to Germany, were only thinking of winning.
"I am convinced that if we put in a consistent showing we will beat them. We have to - qualification is at stake," he added.
The Paraguayans will hope striker Roque Santa Cruz, plagued with knee trouble ahead of the finals, will find his scoring boots.
"I feel strong enough to go out and play my game and put myself about," the Bayern Munich target man said.
Much will depend on how well the Paraguayan backline copes with the trident of Juventus star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, freshly-crowned Champions League winner Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg, who between them scored 20 of the Scandinavians' 30 goals in qualifying.
Sweden, 1958 runners-up on their own soil and third in 1994, are making their 11th World Cup appearance while the Paraguayans are competing for the sixth time, though they have never gone beyond the second phase.
Lars Lagerbäck's Swedes are being supported by some 15,000 fans, many of whom are camped out in caravans in the woods not far from the Olympic Stadium.
With Larsson a cult figure from his time at Celtic, some Scottish fans are also here to back the side with their own team not represented.
A small gaggle of fans clad in the incongruous garb of yellow Swedish shirts and kilts were heading out to the stadium on Wednesday to reconnoitre it in advance and drink in the atmosphere.
The Swedes know only a win will settle them with their final match looking the toughest on paper against England, managed by Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, who will not be looking to hand them any favours in his last tournament in charge of the 1966 champions.
The Trinidad draw which Swedes dominated without making their class tell has taken a toll on morale amid reports that skipper Ljungberg and team-mate Olof Mellberg had a bustup after their first game.
But the pair say they have made up.
They engaged in a similar spat at the the 2002 World Cup in Japan, when Ljungberg angrily went for Mellberg following a hard sliding tackle during training and the players had to be separated by force.
According to Ljungberg, "it was a little bit of an aggressive discussion but Olof and I can handle this. There are no problems between us."
Sweden are set to bring back goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, who briefly blacked out after a freak training ground accident which saw him hit in the face by a loose ball from former Rennes team-mate Kim Källström.
Paraguay have had their own goalkeeping problems, with Justo Villar out of the tournament after injuring a calf muscle in the early stages against England, deputy Aldo Bobadilla of Asuncion side Libertad stepping into the breach.