Slovakia 0-2 Paraguay

La Albirroja eased the pressure on their coach Gerardo Martino as they took control of Group F with an impressive victory


Martino certainly had no intentions of giving up his post prematurely judging by the way he ripped up his preferred 4-4-2 system and operated with three strikers against Slovakia.

Martino's tactical flexibility was certainly a message that England manager Fabio Capello could take note of as Slovakia's hopes of reaching the last 16 in their finals debut was left hanging by a slender thread.

Enrique Vera and Cristian Riveros provided the well-taken goals in each half as Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss' own cautious approach was heavily punished.

Paraguay's victory, ahead of their final group game against New Zealand also gives them a wonderful opportunity to win the group and plot a potentially easier route to the quarter finals.

Martino's side were heavily criticised for their boring approach against defending champions Italy in their opening group game and only managed one shot on target.

But they left Slovakia in shreds, reaping rich rewards for Martino's bold move to gamble on the fitness of Man City striker Roque Santa Cruz and it was no more than his side deserved when they moved into a 27th minute lead.

Lucas Ramon Barrios and Vera exposed Weiss' side for their lack of ambition. Barrios picked a pass through the legs of Komel Salata and Vera burst into the box to curl a wonderful shot beyond Jan Mucha with the outside of his right-foot.

Santa Cruz mate only six starts for Man City last season because of injuries and the wealth of talent available at Eastlands and he showed he is still ring-rusty when instead of killing off Slovak hopes before half-time, he shot at the legs of Jan Mucha, the Slovakian goalkeeper.

Vera pushed a header wide of the post in the second half, after Santa Cruz's cross and Paraguay's lead always looked fragile until Riveros made sure of the points late on.

He produced a powerful shot from the edge of the area to underline Paraguay's dominance and Slovakia now face the daunting prospect of having to beat group favourites Italy in their final game to avoid going elimination.


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