Preview: England v Paraguay

After suffering scrutiny on every possible angle, England finally has the chance to put words into action as they set out to end the country’s 40 year World Cup drought.

    England midfielder Frank Lampard prepares for Paraguay

    England, the team and nation, were boosted earlier this week when star striker Wayne Rooney was given the green light to play once the Round of 16 commences. It is the job of his team mates to ensure his side will be there.

    They start their charge against Paraguay in Frankfurt. The South Americans qualified for their seventh World Cup and will be aiming to make the second round for the third consecutive time, while Sven Goran Eriksson’s team topped their Group in Europe to qualify.

    While Paraguay’s reputation has them tagged as "hard to beat", they’ll also find it hard to win. They are yet to score against England and have lost both of their previous encounters.

    In looking for his side’s maiden goal against England Anibal Ruiz, Paraguay’s coach, will be hoping to pair the Germany based duo of Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdez up front. Bayern Munich’s Santa Cruz is struggling with tendonitis but will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness.

    Anibal Ruiz at a press conference
    as Roque Santa Cruz looks on

    The Uruguayan coach has also been preparing his defence for an aerial assault, with England ready to opt for the "big man, little man" combination of Peter Crouch and Michael Owen.

    The 1966 Champions also have a real threat from midfield with the quartet of Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham all capable of scoring goals.

    Despite fielding some of the biggest names in the game, England defender Gary Neville knew his side could take nothing for granted when he spoke from the team’s training ground.

    "The players have got great ability, but we've got no God-given right to win the tournament and let's face it, we have no recent history of winning tournaments," The Manchester United defender said.

    "It isn't going to be easy for us. It's going to be damned hard work on Saturday afternoon. But we expect to win the game, of course we do. We have aspirations of doing well."

    Meanwhile Ruiz was happy to play the role of underdog and pour more pressure on England while issuing his own warning.

    "Straight away we are coming up against one of the favourites," said Ruiz. "It forces us to concentrate on every last detail. We want to measure ourselves against the best.
    "We have studied England and, if they still think they are better than us, we will teach them a lesson."

    With both side’s remaining group games against Sweden and Trinidad and Tobago the two camps will be well aware that a victory in their opening game will ensure destiny is in their own hands.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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