Paraguay will have the gloves off

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Paraguay currently head the list of South American qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, ahead of Argentina, Brazil and Columbia with 10 points from four games.

They are unbeaten in the preliminaries and have scored nine goals while conceding only one.

The Guaraníes, who meet Brazil in their next qualifier during June, will be determined to erase the memory of a limp showing at Germany 2006 and will want to get more than match practice in South Africa next month.

The Paraguay national football team has reached the second round of the World Cup on three occasions (in 1986, 1998 and 2002) but has never advanced beyond that stage.

However, their current form, under the guidance of Argentinian Gerardo Martino, has picked up tremendously of late with the coach using a line-up that involves three out-and-out strikers. The effectiveness of this strategy has seen them crush Colombia 5-1 and then Chile 3-0 away.

Two of them Paulos da Silva and Nelson Valdez have both found the net twice in the current campaign.

Blackburn Rovers’ Roque Santa Cruz, a recent inclusion in Martino’s squad, has also been in particularly fine form, both in his homeland and in the English Premiership.

With March 26 being a Fifa free date, South African national coach Carlos Alberto Pereira could well invite Santa Cruz’s teammates at Blackburn, Bafana Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena and striker Benni McCarthy to make an appearance.

The Paraguayans are currently ranked 27th in the world and last played the South Africans about 6 years ago when both sides clashed in a Group B encounter at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.

That game ended 2-2, with former Manchester United midfielder Quinton Fortune, scoring a last minute penalty to give the Bafana Bafana a share of the points.