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Jon Riley 28th Jun 2010 - 15:01

Paraguay to put the Blue Samurai to the sword

The penultimate game of the second round sees the surprise table toppers of Group F Paraguay take on the dark horses of Group E Japan in Pretoria.

Paraguay (11/10) have reached the second round for the fourth time in the national team's history after previously making it through the group stages in 1986, 1998 and 2002. I doubt that in any of those campaigns they've progressed with such confidence and with aspirations of going far in the tournament.

That's what they have in 2010. This year they seem to have achieved a balance in their side.

Gerardo Martino has assembled a squad based on the solid defending of Da Silva and Alcarez which has allowed their three pronged attack of Roque Santa Cruz (11/2 first scorer), Lucas Barrios (5/1) and Nelson Valdez (11/2) to go forward freely. The side has played so well that Oscar Cardozo (11/2), the Benfica hitman who has been so prolific in Portugal this season, has had to make do with appearances from the substitutes bench.

That said, it was the very talented Enrique Vera in midfield who scored against Slovakia in their 2-0 group win and is a good looking bet at 11/2 to score anytime.

La Albirroja are certainly appearing to be a force to be reckoned with in South Africa. They were impressive against the Italians, dominant against the Slovaks and professional against New Zealand.

Antolin Alcarez, who missed the 0-0 draw with New Zealand with a minor injury, returned to training on Saturday and could start. The man who scored Paraguay's first goal of the tournament against the Italians is a key man at the heart of the South American's defence and could help them to a clean sheet, priced at EVENS.

Standing between Paraguay and a first ever quarter-final are Japan (5/4).

The Blue Samarai were excellent against Denmark, really impressing with their quick interchange of passing and boundless energy. The Danes had no answer for the counter attacking Japanese, which at times switched defence to attack with breathtaking speed.

In truth, the qualification from the group stages for Asia's only remaining representative was far easier than anyone could have imagined. Victories over Cameroon and Denmark sandwiched a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Holland. Even in defeat they still kept to their same style of play and could have grabbed a second half equalizer.

Japan coach Takeshi Okada will be looking to extremely gifted midfielder Keisuke Honda in midfield to pull the strings for his side. Priced at 7/1 to open the scoring he has already notched twice in the World Cup so far. His free kick against Denmark from thirty yards was reminiscent of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, so any fouls outside the penalty box could be costly for Japan's opponents.

Vying for the free kick taking duties will be Yasuhito Endo (12/1) who curled a sublime free kick into Thomas Sorensen's net after Honda had already netted against the Danes.

Okada fielded the same starting lineup for his side's three group matches and with no injuries or suspensions will probably do the same again.

Japan's best chances of progressing for me are to score the first goal as a Paraguay opener could see them defend staunchly, creating a blockade in front of their goal.

My recommendations for this game are for Paraguay to win in what could be a high scoring affair. I'm going to say Paraguay 3-2 at 40/1 which would create history for Las Guaranies as they have lost all three of their second round matches in World Cup history, failing to score on each occasion.

For a smaller side bet I believe that Japan's Honda will get one of the goals in the match so will be having a little punt on him anytime at 2/1.



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