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Paraguay too strong for Slovakia

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Paraguay claimed the first 2010 FIFA World Cup™ victory by beating Slovakia 2-0 on Sunday in Mangaung/Bloemfontein. Top of the Group F table with four points – at least until Italy take on New Zealand later in the day – the Paraguayans got goals in either half at the Free State Stadium through Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros.

The South Americans controlled the contest right from the start, and they might have opened their account in the early going when Roque Santa Cruz's shot took a tricky deflection towards goal but Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha was up to the task, diving well to save in the top-right corner of his net. Riveros and Lucas Barrios then had good opportunities to confirm Paraguay's dominance. After 19 minutes Riveros had time and space for a shot from 20 yards out but his effort went straight at the keeper. Four minutes later Barrios blasted over after some fancy combination play with Vera.

Paraguay's breakthrough came after 27 minutes following a Slovakian give-away in defence. Paulo Da Silva strode forward menacingly and his pass split the defence to find Vera. With two defenders around him, the Ecuador-based midfielder finished coolly with the outside of his right boot around the despairing goalkeeper. At the other end, Slovakia's only real chance of note fell to Kornel Salata, who could not keep his free header down from a corner. Indeed Santa Cruz might have doubled the lead except for a fine kick-save by Mucha in the 39th minute.

With only one attempt on goal in the first half, Vladimir Weiss's side came out more aggressively in the second period, but Paraguay's organised back line contained them. The Europeans very rarely even threatened to equalise, and Vera should have claimed a second goal when Santa Cruz picked him out all alone in the area in the 72nd minute, but his header bounded wide to the goalkeeper's right.

Instead it fell to Riveros to settle the encounter four minutes from time with a curling left-footed shot from the edge of the area. Slovakia will now hope to resurrect their South Africa 2010 campaign against Italy at Johannesburg's Ellis Park on Thursday, while Gerardo Martino's Paraguay take on New Zealand at the same time in Polokwane.

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