Paraguay coach since Feb 2007
Former Argentina international
who played for Newell’s Old Boys under current Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa. Deemed to be the ideal candidate for the Paraguay job after coaching Libertad and Cerro Porteno to the national championship.
Third choice keeper who is small for the position but has good footwork and is a lithe shot stopper. Back at his original club after frustrating spells in Spain, Argentina and Switzerland. Olympic silver medallist in 2004. Younger brother Edgar is one of the national team’s key midfielders.
Stepped in competently when Villar was injured right at the start of the 2006 World Cup, and four years later is still his back up. Tall keeper with good technical attributes who perhaps suffered from nerves at key moments of his career. Now more mature, and captains his club.
Hoping for third time lucky in the World Cup. Third choice in 2002 and injured in the opening minutes of the first game in 2006. Now team captain. An excellent shot stopper and sound decision maker, but his lack of height can be a problem on crosses and his kicking can be suspect.
Recent addition to the squad, a centre back who has made his career abroad, first Argentina, then Italy, Portugal and now Belgium. Looks a little stiff and clumsy at the highest level, and his distribution is not great, but does bring much needed height to the back line.
60 caps, 1 goal
Generally a midfielder, but now most often used by Paraguay as an attacking right back, though can also figure on the right side of midfield. Strong, barrel chested figure (nicknamed ‘Hulk’) whose unselfish running exemplifies the spirit of the team. Made appearances in both the last two World Cups.
Julio Cesar CACERES
Atletico Mineiro (Brazil)
59 caps, 2 goals
Classy centre back, of excellent anticipation and timing in the tackle who passes well out of defence. An ever present in the last two World Cups and still undisputed first choice. Much travelled, recently rejoined Atletico in Brazil for a second spell, after also playing in Paraguay, France, Spain, Mexico and, unusually, for both River Plate and Boca Juniors in Argentina.
94 caps, 1 goal
The sole survivor from the France 98 squad, ever present in all 3 of Paraguay’s recent World Cup campaigns. Featured in almost half the qualifiers, and if no longer an automatic choice, is a strong contender for a squad place because of his experience and his capacity to play full or wing back on either flank.
Paulo DA SILVA
66 caps, 2 goals
Missed out on the 2002 squad and was a reserve four years ago. Now undisputed first choice, missing only one game in qualification. Well built defender with a sound sense of covering who forms an efficient partnership with Julio Cesar Caceres. Not the biggest of centre backs, but can be an aerial threat at set pieces if he gets a run at the far post.
Claudio MOREL RODRIGUEZ
Boca Juniors (Argentina)
Son of a leading Paraguayan player, born in Paraguay but brought up in Argentina who took a while to be accepted in the land of his birth. Tough and versatile little left back, defensively sound and with the lung power and left foot to make an attacking contribution. A useful striker of set pieces. Has suffered some niggling injuries of late.
San Lorenzo (Argentina)
25 caps, 1 goal
Left sided player more comfortable going forward than defending, hence better at wing back than as a conventional full back, and can also feature at wide midfield. Has a nice curl on his crosses, and his left foot is also useful from set pieces. 2004 Olympic silver medallist.
UNAM Pumas (Mexico)
A centre back by nature who is most often used by Paraguay as a defensive right back, taking advantage of his ability to provide cover on the inside, but is perhaps vulnerable against a tricky winger. Rugged, well built figure who started in 10 of the qualifying matches.
46 caps, 2 goals
A very unfortunate campaign with injuries leaves Paraguay’s best midfield passer of the ball racing to get match fit in time. Stocky figure who is a key supply line for the strikers, and who will be badly missed should he fail to recover from a knee operation. Featured in the last World Cup and like his goalkeeping brother Diego is a 2004 Olympic silver medallist.
Defensive midfielder who this year has also featured for his club as part of a back three. For Paraguay he usually sits in front of the centre backs, where his height is especially important in cutting out long forward passes. His distribution is sound, if often unambitious, and he offers a threat in the opposing penalty area at set pieces.
Argentinos Juniors (Argentina)
Argentine born, was called up by Diego Maradona, but eventually decided to throw in his lot with Paraguay, his father’s country. Looked instantly at home in the side. A stocky, hunched-shouldered central midfielder who can win the ball and also takes responsibility for distribution, with an interesting range of passing. An excellent penalty taker.
Cruz Azul (Mexico)
46 caps, 8 goals
A key figure, who has come on strongly since his two appearances at the last World Cup. The only midfielder to score in the qualification campaign, he has excellent lung power, the knowledge to time his forward bursts and the quality to finish with either foot. Sufficiently versatile to carry out marking jobs if required.
River Plate (Argentina)
Rangy, coltish attacking midfielder who makes surging forward runs with the ball. Has come on strongly in recent months, and his profile has benefited from the move from Olimpia to River Plate. A raw talent, who needs to work on his left foot. Could find himself competing with Osvaldo Martinez for a squad place.
Another product of the diaspora, born in Argentina to a Paraguayan mother. All round central midfielder who is nit exceptional in any facet, hence, perhaps, the fact that he has played little first team club football in recent years. Began winning over the Paraguayan fans with a good performance at home to Argentina last year.
26 caps, 1 goal
Tough, hard running midfielder who made his name in Ecuador, and may well have accepted an offer to play for that national team until the call came from Gerardo Martino. Can play both in a marking role or on the right flank, the position he has usually filled for Paraguay, bringing thrust and aggression to the team.
Borussia Dortmund (Ger)
2 caps, 2 goals
Tall, ungainly but effective. Born in Argentina with a Paraguayan mother, now eligible after taking citizenship. Nicknamed La Pantera which means The Panther. After a slow start in Germany, began to find the net regularly for Dortmund, scoring 19 goals in his first season in the Bundesliga.
12 caps, 1 goal
‘Bird’ Benitez is the usual impact substitute, set free to fly at tiring defences in the second half. Has power, a change of pace and a good left foot. His injury time equaliser away to Ecuador, when Paraguay were a man down, was a key moment on the way to qualification.
29 caps, 4 goals
Lanky, left footed striker whose penalty area prowess has been one of the features of the European season. For Paraguay, however, his finishing has been poor, and he has been a target for terrace boos. Coach Martino believes in him, and in the absence of Salvador Cabanas he could have an important part to play.
Little right sided striker enjoying an excellent Libertadores campaign and hitting form at the right time. Raw and greedy, but very good in one against one situations and packing a surprisingly wicked shot. Took his opportunity well in the recent friendly against South Africa, and could be an interesting impact sub.
Nelson HAEDO (known in Germany as Haedo Valdez)
Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
38 caps, 9 goals
Striker whose aggressive running, frequently down the left channel, is a vital part of the team’s attack. Combines well and finishes proficiently with either foot, especially the left. Second top scorer in qualification. Failed to score in the three games of Germany 06. Will look to do better this time.
Roque SANTA CRUZ
Manchester City (England)
66 caps, 20 goals
Approaching his third World Cup and perhaps his most important. Injuries have prevented him fulfilling his potential, but when fit he remains a class act, full of quality in the air and on the ground. His presence is a huge boost for the midfield, who can hit him early for flick ons behind the line or knock downs for the runners. Martino will be praying for his fitness.