Paraguay’s last World Cup appearance was back in 2010, where they reached the quarter-finals – only losing to Spain on penalties in South Africa. In that squad, they had well known forward Roque Santa Cruz, who is one of the most famous Paraguayan footballers in modern times. During the nine years since that World Cup, there has been no Paraguayan footballer to live up to the standards set by Roque Santa Cruz.
Current players for Paraguay include the likes of Miguel Almiron and Fabian Balbuena, who play in the English Premier League – the same place Santa Cruz made a name for himself during his prolific spell at Blackburn. Below are players who have the potential to replicate the likes of Almiron and Balbuena and hopefully earn a move to Europe.
Santiago Arzamendia is a left-back for Cerro Porteno and at just 22 years of age has been capped by the Paraguayan national team four times featuring in every game in the Copa America.
He is the perfect modern-day full-back, playing a key role in building attacking phases and at the same time not ignoring his defensive duties. He also possesses searing pace which is important for getting up and down the wings, if he finds himself out of position, he quickly rectifies this with his pace and trackbacks to help his team.
Going forward, he can use his pace to overlap his winger, which provides an extra threat for the opposition to be wary of, because once he gets the ball in an attacking position he can use it to put in a deadly cross, as he has done so often this season, providing three assists from the left-back position in nineteen matches, which is impressive work for a fullback.
Arzamendia is also strong which makes him hard to get past but also helps him take on players, not only by strength but on the ball, he is very skilful.
Another trait he holds is he isn’t afraid to test the keeper from far out, more often than not it doesn’t go in, however, it is always in the back of the mind of the opposition to close him down which frees, up other players on his team. At the age of just 22 with the talent, he possesses it won’t be long until clubs start hunting for Arzamendia’s signature.
Richard Sanchez is a workhorse midfielder who has already made the move from the Paraguayan league to Mexican giants, Club America in recent weeks. He is the type of midfielder you would hate to come up against but love to have in your side. He is only 23 and this year he made his debut for the national side, putting in solid performances at the Copa America. Sanchez is a bull-like midfield player. He is tough in the tackle, he runs everywhere, and he can dribble with the ball.
He caused problems for Brazil in the Copa America with his high levels of pressing and tough tackles, an oppositions worst nightmare. With the tackling side of things, he can win the ball back, on the attacking side of the game, he can dribble his way into dangerous areas. He even managed to grab a goal in the Copa America, scoring in a 1-1 draw with Argentina. Sanchez is also very useful from dead-ball situations, scoring several free-kicks during his Olimpia days. He is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future. Hopefully, a good spell at Club America could see him move across the pond to Europe.
The final player on this list is, 19-year-old, Ivan Franco. Currently playing for Paraguayan side Libertad, his performances have led his side to second in the league, and he will be key into how Libertad do come to the end of the Clausura. Franco is like a mixture of Almiron and the Brazilian Phillipe Coutinho, he is speedy, agile and his dribbling ability is exquisite. Franco can create something out of nothing, one moment Libertad could be under pressure, the next celebrating a goal, that’s the type of player Franco is. With his quick dribbling ability, he at times leaves defenders bamboozled due to the sheer pace and movement. So far this season he has scored seven times, as well as providing 5 assists in 25 games. His ability has not gone unnoticed, PSG has been rumoured to sign the youngster and he made his debut for La Albirroja vs Jordan in the recent International break. With the pure talent that Franco has, it’s a matter of when not if he will get picked up by a European club – Remember the name, Ivan Franco.