FIFA U-17 World Cup: Paraguay carry South American hope against USA in Rd of 16 | fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 | Hindustan Times
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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Paraguay carry South American hope against USA in Rd of 16

Paraguay have been a dominant force at the FIFA U-17 World Cup till now and will look to continue their winning run against USA in their pre-quarterfinal encounter in New Delhi on Monday.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 15, 2017 20:56 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Paraguay were one of the best offensive teams in the group stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Paraguay were one of the best offensive teams in the group stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.(AFP)

When it comes to South American football powerhouses, Paraguay have never really matched up to their more successful neighbours. Brazil, Argentina and Colombia have dominated proceedings for majority of the last century while Paraguay could only manage semifinal appearances at best.

However, the Latin Americans have been a dominant force at the FIFA U-17 World Cup till now and will look to continue their winning run against USA in their pre-quarterfinal encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Monday.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Paraguay’s secret to great run - practising at 2 AM

Paraguay were one of the best offensive teams in the group stages with 10 goals to their name. Thanks to their striking prowess, they finished at the top of Group B. Clubbed in a group with Mali, Turkey and New Zealand, progress to the next round could have been tricky affair for the ‘White and Red’. But, they came into the tournament with just one loss from their last 12 games.

The flair shown by their strikers - Anibal Vega and Antonio Galeano - meant that they had the best goal difference among all the other teams in the competition at the end of group stages.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Paraguay pip Mali in five-goal thriller

However, the place where Paraguay have shown weakness in this tournament in their defense. The Group B leaders were not quite organised at the back and they ended up conceding five goals in the three matches. But, that has been the bane for Latin American teams from time immemorial and coach Gustavo Moringo believes that offense will be their best strategy.

“Our attack has been quite impressive in this tournament and they have adapted well to every game. Defensively, we’ve had some issues and that is clear from the fact that we have conceded in all of our games. So, I think our strikers will be key against USA,” Moringo said ahead of the game.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Paraguay crush Turkey 3-1, in knockouts as Group B toppers

On the other hand, USA had a mixed bag of luck in the group stages. They started well with a 3-0 win over hosts India and followed it up with a disciplined show against Ghana. But, they were completely outplayed in their last game against Colombia and the loss meant that John Hackworth’s team qualified for the knockout stages as the third-placed team with the most points.

“Colombia were brilliant in the last game and we were not able to get the result we wanted. But, we are concentrating on our match against another South American team and we hope that we will be able to take valuable lessons from our last defeat,” Hackworth told the media.

USA came into the FIFA U-17 World Cup with one of the strongest striking line-ups, but their strong point till now has been their defense. USA coach John Hackworth likes to play with five defensive options and that can be the case once again on Monday. Center-backs James Sands and Jaydin Lindsey have been quite impressive in their roles and with defensive midfielder Chris Durkin providing extra support to the back line, USA will be well equipped to take care Paraguay’s offensive threat.

However, goal-scoring has been an issue for the 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship runners-up. The striking trio of Josh Sargent, Tim Weah and Ayo Akinola is enough to strike fear into the heart of any defense, but just 19 out of their 39 attempts in the last three game were on target. As a result, the Americans have really struggled to find the back of the net and that needs to change quickly if they want to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time since 2005.