FIFA U-17: Can Paraguay go all the way?

Paraguay has won all its games in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup so far and sits atop Group B with 10 goals — the most by any team. It will face tougher teams in the upcoming stages. But it will be ready, for, it has faced high quality teams in the South American U-17 championships.

Paraguay's attack has been exceptional in the group stages. With an improved defence, it can be one of the favourites for the title.   -  AFP

Paraguay finds the intensity in the group stage of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup lesser than the South American Under-17 championships.

It won three games on the trot at the D. Y. Patil stadium to head Group B. Its chief coach Gustavo Morinigo agrees that his players are toughened after playing Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru in the South American tournament.

He explained: “Competition in the South American tournament was very hard. So, playing in that kind of tournament worked for us.” Wins over Mali, New Zealand and Turkey has given Morinigo’s squad the look of a World Cup heavyweight. The Paraguay coach, when quizzed about his side's chances of winning the title, said: "You should expect that (winning) from every team in a World Cup. For us, it is the result of hard work and focusing on the basics. We need to continue doing that and work on it, game by game.”

Turkey's coach Mehmet Hacioglu spoke about Paraguay’s potential to perform in the knockout stage. “They (Paraguay) are dangerous because of those fast attacks and are physically strong. According to me, Paraguay is capable of becoming champions. If the team is physically competitive, there is always room for improvement and can perform better.”

Under Morinigo’s guidance, the team may face stronger opposition in the knockouts, though not in the same class as South  American U-17 champion Brazil against which Paraguay drew twice (1-1 and 2-2) in the South American tournament. Paraguay has scored 10 stunning goals, including a few from direct free-kicks. But the coach is working upon the lapses by the backline, which has been the side's weak link.

Paraguay’s first choice goalkeeper Diego Huesca represents La Liga side Valencia CF, the only player in a foreign league.

Five goals scored against the Group B topper include two by Mali on fast counter-attacks down the left involving two forwards, two self-goals and one by Turkey’s Kerem Kesgin. Morinigo admitted: “The defensive aspect of our game is very important and one of our main concerns. We have two days to work on that.”

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