PHILADELPHIA – Different to Jurgen Klinsmann and unlike any other coach in this Copa America Centenario, Paraguay’s Ramón Díaz opted to make his lineup public a day ahead of time for Saturday’s decisive match against the US (7 pm ET; FS1, Univision).
“I want to do this so that every Paraguayan sees that we know what we’re doing, that we’re convinced about the players we have,” said Díaz during his prematch press conference on Friday afternoon.
“We’re going to go for the result because we understand a win is our only option. Both, the players and the coaching staff need to show what we’re made of, and I want the Paraguayans to be calm just like we are for [Saturday]’s game.”
Paraguay have to win if they want to keep playing in Copa América Centenario. They haven’t been knocked out in the group stage since the 2001 Copa América, and playing the hosts this year is a challenge they cannot afford to leave to chance.
“For us this is a final, because it will be an achievement to knock out the hosts that will have the support of their fans,” Díaz remarked. “We have to be very intelligent for this kind of games. We’re going to have to overcome the pressures on the field, as well as those external.”
Díaz is definitely feeling the pressure, having won only three of his 19 games coached with La Albirroja. And coincidentally playing against the host country hasn’t worked out very well historically for Paraguay, either.
They’ve only won twice in 25 games against host nations in Copa América competition, with those victories dating as far back as the 1940s, and the last time they got a result playing a local side was in 1953 when they tied Peru 2-2. That game was later awarded to Peru, for unsportsmanlike behavior by the Paraguayan players, with one player suspended for three years after kicking the referee.
“We’re used to adversity, we need to win and surely tomorrow we’ll see a very strong Paraguay looking for the opponent’s goal,” said Paraguay’s captain Paulo da Silva. “None of us are thinking about going home, but if it happens it will be a huge disappointment for all of us. We’ve prepared ourselves to leave here after the last week of Copa América, knowing what we were against and the group we fell in from the beginning.”
Díaz, who knows Klinsmann very well from their playing days in Italy and France, recognizes the Americans' potential shown after the first two Copa América games.
“The US are a team that’s been working for a while now with Klinsmann, and they’ve been doing it pretty well,” said Díaz. “They’re a very dynamic team, very strong physically and we’re going to have to step up both physically and technically.”
“We’re going to try to steal the ball away from them so we can play our game and be able to surprise them.”
Da Silva, who will lead a four-man backline, is hopeful they can beat the US, and realizes the game might be extremely open if goals don’t come early. Out of the first 16 games in the tournament to date, the team that has scored first in the game has won 13 of those times and no side has lost after leading.
“If we have to take risks we’ll do that because the only result that works for us is to win,” added Da Silva. “If we don’t start scoring, then we’re going to have to use every weapon available."