Getty Images

Paraguay take control of Group F in comfortable win over Slovakia

A 27th-minute goal from Enrique Vera set Paraguay up for their first win of the tournament, which put them firmly on the path to qualifying for the knockout stage. La Albirroja, who picked up a late guarantee goal from Cristian Riveros, came away 2-0 winners over an organized but ultimately uninspired Slovakia. 

Paraguay are now on top of Group F. 

Sloppiness ruled the day from the opening whistle, and it was a poor clearance that led to the goal. Vladimir Weiss’ weak kick fell to Lucas Barrios, who beat one man and slipped a pass through to Vera. Under pressure from two defenders, the LDU Quito midfielder struck a one-timer, clipping his outside-of-the-foot shot around goalkeeper Jan Mucha to give the Paraguayans the lead. 

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino opted for an attacking lineup, including handing Roque Santa Cruz, still recovering from an injury, the start. The decision paid off, as Slovakia were forced to defend often. They did not muster a single shot on goal until stoppage time. 

Santa Cruz was an offensive force all afternoon. A long shot forced a save from Mucha in the 3rd minute, and after another poor giveaway in the Slovakian back, the Manchester City striker nearly finished a breakaway, if not for Mucha’s brave save. 

The match was iced in the 86th minute. A set piece from Torres was knocked down and the ball eventually came to Riveros, who took one touch and slammed the ball into left side of the goal. 

A lovely long strike from Robert Vittek tested Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar in the 92nd minute, but it was too little, too late. Slovakia, stunned by New Zealand in their first game, must now most likely beat defending champions Italy in their final group-stage match.

Meanwhile, Paraguay take control of Group F with only the weak Kiwis to navigate before they clinch a spot in the next round. 

La Albirroja’s win also continues the unbeaten streak of South American sides, who have yet to lose in eight matches in South Africa.

Scoring Summary

PAR – Vera 27’, Riveros 86’

Slovakia: Ján Mucha; Peter Pekarík, Martin Škrtel, Kornel Saláta (Miroslav Stoch 83'), Ján Ďurica; Zdeno Štrba, Marek Hamšík, Stanislav Šesták (Filip Hološko 70'), Vladimír Weiss; Ján Kozák, Róbert Vittek

Paraguay: Justo Villar; Carlos Bonet, Paulo da Silva, Antolín Alcaraz, Claudio Morel; Víctor Cáceres, Enrique Vera (Édgar Barreto 88'), Cristian Riveros, Nelson Valdez (Aureliano Torres 68'); Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios (Óscar Cardozo 82')