Republic of Ireland v Paraguay, International Friendly, May 25, 2010
The open wounds left by Thierry Henry’s handball in the 2010 World Cup play-off will again be on show on Tuesday night at Lansdowne Road as the Republic of Ireland host South Africa bound Paraguay in a friendly.
With Ireland left to watch the 2010 World Cup on their sofas, Giovanni Trapattoni has had little option but to start looking ahead to the 2012 European Championships campaign. In building to the future the wily old Italian has called up a slew of fresh-faces for the upcoming friendlies with Paraguay and Algeria. (1.38 for either an Ireland win or draw.)
The Ireland boss has included Ipswich goalie Brian Murphy, Manchester City defender Greg Cunningham, midfielders Keith Treacy (Preston), Kevin Fahey (Birmingham) and Paul Green (Derby) and St Johnstone striker Cillian Sheridan in his squad. All the newbees will be hoping to make their international debuts, however their playing time is far from assured with senior players Stephen Kelly, Sean St Ledger, Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane all in the squad too for the forthcoming matches.
Yet all discussion of how the new generation may or may not fuse with the established old guard is a discussion which has sadly been shelved for the Irish following the life-and-death incident which has gripped the squad in the past few days.
The big news for the Irish over the weekend has been the status updates over 18-year-old Everton defender Shane Duffy. Duffy had been called up to train with the Ireland squad, and he was asked to participate in a training match against an Irish amateur team at the back-end of last week. Sadly that training match took a nasty and unexpected twist when, in a freak accident, Duffy suffered a laceration to his liver after colliding with the opposition goalkeeper. Such was the panic and seriousness of Duffy’s condition, the teenager was forced to have emergency life-saving surgery. Happily Duffy is now said to be recovering, however such a difficult last few days will unlikely have aided the Irish side’s preparation ahead of a match which has little bearing in the immediate future.
For Paraguay though, the match against the Irish is central to their 2010 World Cup schedule. The South Americans face the Ivory Coast and Greece before the battleÂ in South AfricaÂ kicks off, but there are just a few weeks left for coach Gerardo Martino to work out what his best side is before meeting Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand in Group F.
Paraguay, though, will be in positive mood ahead of the World Cup having qualified for the tournament in style. Having featured in seven previous tournaments, they secured their place at a fourth-straight World Cup finals with two games to spare after a 1-0 win over Argentina. (1.39 for either a Paraguay win or draw.)
Looking at the Paraguayans weaknesses, their problem areas are definitely found at the back. Real Valladolid’s experienced goalie Justo Villar is far from being watertight between the sticks, while their defence is marshalled by Sunderland centre-half Paulo da Silva. Elsewhere, at 35-years-old, Lyon defender Denis Caniza is hoping be involved in his fourth World Cup.
Side-stepping their rearguard deficiencies though, Paraguay’s squad comes alive in midfield and attack. A new generation of players has gelled into a well-oiled unit under the guidance of Martino, notably strikers Nelson Haedo Valdez & Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmund), Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) and Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) in attack, with Jonathan Santana of Wolfsburg and Edgar Barreto of Atalanta in midfield.
Sadly there was no place in the squad for Club America striker Salvador Cabanas who was Paraguay’s top scorer in the qualifiers with six goals. He was shot in the head in a Mexico City bar last January and although he is on the road to recovery, he will not be fit in time for South Africa.
101gg predicts: Republic of Ireland 1 – Paraguay 2